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Packer knew he'd play for Kiwis again

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/05/2017 Scott Bailey

Even while he spent one year behind bars for assault, New Zealand prop Russell Packer never stopped believing he could play for the Kiwis again.

Two-and-a-half years later the reformed Packer's faith was rewarded when he was named in the Kiwis' Test side to take on Australia in Canberra on Friday.

Packer has been one of the form forwards in St George Illawarra's rise to second on the NRL ladder over the opening two months of the season.

Having last played for New Zealand in 2011, his NRL and representative career appeared all but over when he pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm in January 2014.

However he was handed a lifeline by the Dragons, and has repaid them by helping to lead a bruising forward pack this season.

Packer never stopped believing he could add to his one Kiwi Test jersey.

"Three years ago or what have you I always thought that if I was lucky enough to play in the NRL again I knew that if I worked hard enough I was good enough to make these squads," he said.

"I'm very lucky it's all eventuated."

Packer admitted to being first shocked, and then emotional, when he received the call from New Zealand coach David Kidwell last week to inform him of his selection.

But he insists he is a different man to the one who debuted against Australia in 2011, and then drew the ire of then-Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens for a late and high hit on the retiring Darren Lockyer.

"I do remember it for the wrong reasons," Packer said of his debut.

"I got suspended in that game.

"I was just a young kid basically and just living life each day at a time then. I'm a little older now."

Packer admits he took that occasion for granted, but won't make the same mistake this year.

Instead, he labelled his selection as a reward for the family and friends that have stuck by him in the six years since.

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