Young Souths lock Kyle Turner says he's feeling like he's closing in on full match fitness after a season almost ruined by injury, praising senior forward Glenn Stewart for his guidance throughout 2015.
Turner suffered the acute disc injury in his neck in the pre-season All Stars game and underwent radical disc replacement surgery. Having also had his concussion issues in his brief NRL career to date he suffered another setback when concussed again on his return to the field against Penrith in Round 21 and was forced to sit out the following week.
But after three straight incident-free hit-outs averaging nearly 60 minutes and 35 tackles per game in that time, Turner said he is feeling good ahead of a crucial meeting with old rivals the Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Friday night.
"I'm still learning and getting the match fitness in there but I think I'm certainly getting up to scratch with it," he said.
"The boys are helping me along there and leading me along the way. Glenn Stewart has taken me under his wing and I'm just trying to play some consistent football."
Turner said it had been a huge advantage being able to learn from and train alongside the dual Manly premiership-winner.
"He's got all the knowledge in the world and he's a real leader of the team which is what us young boys look up to," Turner said.
Turner said he wasn't letting his mind wander to 'what-ifs' regarding his prior neck injury and concussions.
"I haven't really focused on it to be honest," he said.
"I've sort of just tried to play a good game of football, that's what the team needs from me.
"You can learn the life lessons from it, not to take anything for granted, but my main focus is the finals and this week.
"I think if I think about it too much I'll let it affect my game and I can't really do that, the boys need me to be on my game."
Turner was confident the side could shake off an ordinary 47-12 loss to Brisbane last week and get back on track against the premiership favourites.
"We were a bit disappointed at first [after the Brisbane game] but that's not the end for us, we've got a good game this Friday and I think if we can build some momentum coming off this game it will really help us going into the finals.
"We can't really focus on the game just gone, we can take lessons from it and build from it but what's in the past is done.
"They've got a big forward pack which really lays the platform for the backs so we've pretty much got to be on for the full 80 minutes."
The Roosters pack has hardly missed a beat after losing forward leader Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to a season-ending ACL injury and Turner's opposing back-rowers – the likes of Boud Cordner, Aidan Guerra, Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Isaac Liu – have been relentless.
"They're fit, fast and strong, we've really got to be on our game throughout the whole park and really just play an 80-minute game," Turner said of the Tricolours forwards.
"They are a form side there's no doubt about that but we can only focus on what we can do, take what we can from the Broncos game and just learn from it.
"They're a great side the Roosters, if we can put up a good performance against them we can sort of build momentum going into the finals.
"Every team steps up coming towards the finals, it's a while different playing field, everyone's up and ready to go, we need that momentum going into it."