Ben Te'o celebrates his try in the Rabbitohs' preliminary final win over the Roosters.

Departing Rabbitoh Ben Te'o was just 10 minutes into his return from an NRL-enforced month-long stint on the sidelines when his entire rugby league career flashed before his very eyes. 

He had already spent of most of September training in his home state in Brisbane away from his teammates, but an early 12-0 lead to the Roosters had him already imagining life away from the NRL. 

"It was the start of a bad nightmare," he said. "A lot of crazy thoughts were going through my head. But I was glad it turned around."

And the Leinster-bound player was at the very heart of it, with his insertion midway through the first half for the concussed Kyle Turner instantly turning momentum back into South Sydney's favour. 

"He had a huge impact," coach Michael Maguire said. "I thought when he came on he made a significant impact in how he ran the ball and obviously how he defended."

In fact, when the eight-year pro piggy-backed Jake Friend over in the 44th minute for just his second try of the season, it gave a success-starved South Sydney fanbase the lead for good. 

By the time he was done, Te'o had punched out almost 100 metres, made 23 tackles, and busted through five Roosters would-be defenders for one of his more impressive outings in the cardinal and myrtle. 

"I really enjoyed that game," Te'o said. "I was very nervous leading up to this week, coming off the bench and just trying to see how I'm going to fit in the team and what can I offer. So I was quite anxious all week."

While Rabbitohs fans have been waiting 43 years, for Te'o, it's been four weeks in the making. 

Suspended for a chicken wing tackle on Brisbane's Sam Thaiday in Round 23, the former Wests Tiger and Bronco was now reliant on his team getting through the early part of September without him. 

And to deal with the nervous tension, he jet-setted north to spent time with his family in Queensland. 

"It was a long four weeks but I broke it up. I went and did some off-site training and I'm happy to be back here with these guys and get to play. It's been good," he said.

 "I just went away to Queensland, did a bit of training then came back down. Just to break it up, you know? Because it was four weeks, it was a long time. I didn't want to be around, always at training. So I changed it up, went to some different sites. But yeah, it was my first game in five weeks."

The 27-year-old, who has been living with fellow departing teammate Sam Burgess for the past three months, said it was the recuperation he needed to restore peace of mind. 

"It helped. I caught up with some family and I did some new things. And came back with just a bit of enthusiasm for the boys. That's about it," he said. 

"I think I was running off a lot of adrenalin. The crowd was awesome out there. They were awesome."