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Southland captain Brayden Mitchell knew it was not going to be good news when he eventually sought medical advice after taking a knock during a club game in May last year.
His fears proved warranted. The hooker had nerve damage and underwent neck surgery.
The 30-year-old missed the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup campaign and he has had to reinvent himself as a loose forward so he can return to the game he loves.
Last weekend he brought up 50 games for the province.
"It took me a while to get there but it was pretty cool," Mitchell said.
He made his debut for Southland in 2009. The Stags had just lifted the Ranfurly Shield off Canterbury but had lost David Hall to injury.
Mitchell played in the semifinal loss to Wellington.
"I've had quite a few injuries and I actually spent two years playing for Waikato.
"My mum always jokes I've had operations on everything from my Achilles to my neck now, so there is not much more to get done, so hopefully I'll be OK."
The neck injury was not very funny at all. It was more of a worry.
Initially, he thought he could shrug it off. But when he lost some feeling down the left side of his body, he realised it was more serious.
He still gets some symptoms and cannot really throw the ball into the lineout anymore, without experiencing discomfort.
So with the support of Stags coach Dave Hewett, he has made the move to blindside flanker and has played well in the new role.
His 50th game did not have the happy ending he would have wanted.
Southland gave up a healthy halftime lead to lose 31-26 to Manawatu in Invercargill on Saturday.
"The boys were pretty gutted. We left one out there, I reckon. We just sort of stopped playing footy but we took some confidence out of the first half."
Mitchell felt the Stags closed down and "tried to defend our lead rather than try and keep attacking".
Southland has been competitive other than the heavy loss to the Crusaders. But for whatever reason the team cannot seem to convert pressure into an elusive victory.
"I guess we need to break that cycle so we can show the boys we can win and show them what it feels like and get their confidence up.
"We don't go out there to lose every game but we just seem to be on the wrong end of the scoreboard every game."
Southland has an opportunity to snap its 27-game losing streak when it hosts Counties Manukau in Invercargill today.
"They are the kind of team that will attack from anywhere and score tries from everywhere.
"If we can nullify that and put pressure on them down their end, hopefully they will make a few mistakes and we can capitalise."