James Slipper thought he'd never wear a gold jersey again after twice testing positive to cocaine, which is what makes his worthy return against South Africa special after some "dark times".
The first name Michael Cheika read out on the team sheet to face the Springboks at Ellis Park on Saturday (Sunday AEST) was that of Slipper - the former Reds prop who served a two-month ban last year for breaching the illicit drugs policy.
It was an incredibly tough period in Slipper's life. He had being suffering depression for a year and was coming to grips with the news his mother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Time away from the game and starting afresh with the ACT Brumbies offered Slipper a chance to reignite his career.
"It's definitely humbling ... there was a point there where I probably didn't see [a Wallabies return] happening and that's probably what makes it special," Slipper said.
"I just want to go out there and do my job for the team. That's the best way I can pay back Cheik and the selectors.
"My parents and my two brothers are probably the people closest to me who influenced me the most from a pretty dark period of time."
With 86 caps to his name, Slipper is the third most experienced Wallaby in the starting XV behind Sekope Kepu (103 Tests) and captain Michael Hooper (91 Tests).
Slipper has played more Tests than five of Australia's eight forwards combined in Folau Faingaa, Izack Rodda, Rory Arnold, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto and Isi Naisarani.
A change of scenery in the nation's capital enabled the 30-year-old to get his head straight and in the meantime play some decent footy.
One thing Cheika and his selectors have done is rewarded Super Rugby form and Slipper well and truly falls into the category of player that stood up at provincial level.
"I got a new look on how to play the game at the Brumbies and it was refreshing," Slipper said. "I went down there with the goal to contribute to the club and ended up playing every game and trial game.
"My enjoyment for playing rugby has come back a lot. I'm loving my rugby at the moment. The support my family has showed me is why I'm back here."
Cheika described Slipper's body of work in 18 Super Rugby games this year as "outstanding".
"He has well and truly deserved his spot," Cheika said. "When I first came into this team Slips was a player I really counted on for his honesty and the way he approached everything. I enjoyed coaching him and to have him back in the squad and the team has given me a lot of pleasure."
When Slipper sings the Australian national anthem at Ellis Park on Saturday it will mark 959 days - about 32 months - since he last represented his country.