South Sydney back-rower Kyle Turner will return from a career-threatening spinal injury in the NSW Cup this weekend.
Turner was injured in a Paul Gallen tackle in February’s All Stars fixture, amid initial fears the 23-year-old might never play in the NRL again.
But following revolutionary surgery, which involved the removal of a bulging disc through the front of his throat that was replaced with an artificial one, Turner is scheduled to make an earlier-than-expected return.
Pending a fitness test later in the week, Turner – a bench player in Souths’ grand final-winning side last year, will return for the Rabbitohs’ feeder club North Sydney against Wentworthville on Sunday at North Sydney Oval.
Fellow Souths back-rower Chris McQueen said Turner had struggled through some tough times, but now he was set to play a key role in the club’s quest for back-to-back premierships.
“It has not been easy for him but he is still quite young, all the boys were supporting him and he knew if he did the right things, he would get back on the paddock,” McQueen said on Monday.
“He has been great around training – he has absolutely ripped in. He has got his body right.
“He was showing some good form early on. He will come back into the team and we expect him to be right back where he was.”
“For him to be back after 19, 20 weeks, that is outstanding.”
Souths have battled with injuries to key players throughout 2015 including Adam Reynolds, John Sutton and Glenn Stewart and Turner’s return gives coach Michael Maguire virtually a full-strength roster to chose from ahead of Saturday’s round 19 match with St George Illawarra at the SCG. Centre Kirisome Auva’a remains suspended from the NRL following his conviction last year over a domestic violence issue.
Rabbitohs forward Jason Clark said Turner’s return was an inspiration for all his teammates in the lead-up to the finals series.
“I can imagine it would have been hard for him,” Clark said.
“But even when he couldn’t do anything, he was in here and he was around the boys and we were keeping him smiling and positive and telling him there was light at the end of the tunnel.”