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Wests Tigers back-rower Shaun Spence will never again take rugby league for granted.

For Spence, Friday nights clash against Penrith Panthers at Carrington Oval is more than just a trial match. It is the chance to again play the game he loves after overcoming the odds following a horrific left knee injury last June.

I remember watching my knee go and hearing three pops then a crack. By the time I got to the sheds, it was the size of two knees and I knew I was in a bit of strife, Spence recalled.

The diagnosis wasnt good a medial ligament rupture and dislocated knee cap plus a tear of the cartilage.

Following the operation, the specialist surgeon, Dr Simon Tan, said it looked as though a bomb had exploded inside my knee. He made it very clear this was a career threatening injury, Spence admitted.

The most disappointing thing for me was that I was the captain of the Balmain Ryde Eastwood Tigers team and I had been 18th man a few times for Wests Tigers. For a 20-year-old, it was mentally hard to deal with. You are at that age where rugby league can either make or break you.

Im really lucky I had good people around me who believed I could make it back with plenty of hard work. I wont lie. There were times when I doubted myself. The doubts will always be there until I get a few games under my belt.

Days on end in the gym under Wests Tigers NRL Strength and Conditioning Manager Luke Portese saw Spence add six kilos to his bulky frame. Wests Tigers NRL Head Physiotherapist Peter Moussa was also a rock of support.

To Shauns credit, he put his head down and worked his backside off, Moussa said.

Even when the progress was so minimal, he just kept chipping away at his rehab with (Rehabilitation Manager) Andrew Leeds. It is a real credit to him to be where he is today.

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