Warriors hooker Nathaniel Roache said the joy he felt upon returning to the NRL last week almost reduced him to tears.
Roache and teammate Lachlan Burr shared long-awaited returns to the Telstra Premiership arena after periods trapped in first-grade purgatory.
Both have been retained in the team to face Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Sunday night.
Roache has come to develop an intimate knowledge of the club's rehab room over the last two seasons. Back surgery and a torn Achilles have resulted in plenty of rehab time.
It meant he hadn't played a single NRL game since round 23 in 2017, and while his return to the field last week included a runaway try in an emotion-charged 40-6 drubbing of the Bulldogs, Roache said it was the crowd reaction he enjoyed most.
"It was awesome and a feeling that was long-awaited for me," Roache said.
Roache backs up Fusitua
"Running out was probably the biggest thing. I was telling my family I couldn't wait to run out there and see the crowd and get all the emotion, and it was exactly what I expected.
"I was almost going to cry to myself to be honest, but then I had a little moment where I smiled [and said] 'oh, we're back, let's go have some fun.'"
Roache managed 56 minutes at dummy-half, running for 81 metres and making 35 tackles without a miss, and has been named to start at hooker again this week with Issac Luke on an extended bench.
Roache, 22, revealed he met with Burr in the lead up to round one in a bid to calm nerves.
"We did have a chat before and just said 'let's go have some fun mate, don't worry about the result, enjoy the moment'," Roache said.
"I love 'Burry', he's a good dude. I'm so happy that he got the chance to play footy again and play NRL."
Burr was impressive in his first NRL appearance since 2016, making over 100m and doing enough to keep his spot for round two.
"It was a bit surreal really, it's been over two years since I played a [NRL] game," Burr told NRL.com.
"It was a good feeling to run out in front of my family and the Warrior crowd, a massive crowd, it was something really, really special. It was a massive feeling of relief."
Coach Stephen Kearney has named an unchanged starting line-up to face the Tigers despite the return of young forward Isaiah Papali'i from a one-game suspension. Papali'i will take Blake Ayshford's place on the interchange bench.
"[Papali'i] trained all pre-season in the middle but he's lucky that he can also fill in a role on the edge, so he will fit in where we think it's best going to suit the team," Kearney said.
"[Last week] we thought we could put some pressure on some individuals if we were consistent with the pressure, and sometimes that's just running the ball hard.
"As we saw after 15-20 minutes, we thought if we could do that consistently that we would get some reward at the back end of halves, and I thought that worked OK."