Friend inspired by first rep jersey
It was an opportunity he never expected at this stage of his career, but Nathan Friend's NRL All Stars appearance last week has given him a new lease on life ahead of his 13th season of first grade.
A late call-up to replace the injured Michael Ennis in Wayne Bennett's side, Friend gained his first ever representative honour in the 20-6 loss to the Indigenous All Stars at CBUS Super Stadium.
And the 33-year-old Warrior believes it was just what the doctor ordered in terms of his preparation for the upcoming NRL campaign.
"I am no rep player, I never got the opportunity with the guys I have in front of me [for Queensland and Australia]," Friend told NRL.com.
"It was great to get the call up from the 'super coach' and I enjoyed the week, it was awesome.
"I had played with a few of the older guys so it was good to reunite, and with a lot of the younger superstars, it was good to be a part of it.
"It was refreshing, I got out of Auckland for the week but it was good to be back."
So low were his expectations of a call up, when coach Andrew McFadden called to deliver the news Friend immediately assumed it was a prank.
"Thursday afternoon when I got the call I thought it was a gee-up! Cappy [McFadden] called me and I spoke to the wife, still not sure if it was a gee-up or not," he said.
Even after he confirmed the legitimacy of the call the decision wasn't a straight forward one.
Off contract at the end of the year, Friend faces stern competition at the Warriors for the hooking role from Kiwi internationals Thomas Leuluai and Siliva Havili.
Chad Townsend looks set to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves to start the season, meaning Leuluai will likely either start ahead of Friend at dummy-half, or take plenty of minutes off him from the interchange.
"I didn't want to jeopardise my spot here at the club, because that [the game against the Panthers in Rotorua on Saturday] was our only full NRL trial," Friend said.
"We have a lot of healthy competition at the club this year, especially in my position, and it's one thing to train, but you like to get some game time with the boys in game-related situations.
"But Cappy said I probably wouldn't get the opportunity again, I am glad I did what I did and I had a ball out there with the guys."
Friend is expecting to turn out in the Warriors' inter-squad trial this weekend, when the NRL squad take on their NSW Cup counterparts in the final hit out before the opening round clash against the Knights in Newcastle.
The club has already confirmed centre Konrad Hurrell will make his return from a wrist injury, while Captain Simon Mannering and front-rower Jacob Lillyman are also slated to play their first game for the year.