Vince Aso can recall every moment he spent on the pitch during his first Super Rugby season with the Hurricanes.
Through their 18 games in the 2015 season, Aso didn't get onto the turf once. Battling against the likes of Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder for playing time, Aso knew his first year with the club would be about learning what he could.
"I soaked up as much experience I could get from them so when I got my chance I could use it," he tells the Herald.
With Smith among the veteran players to sign with a club overseas following the 2015 season, Aso got his opportunity the next season.
The 24-year-old has been a benefactor of an experienced talent taking up a lucrative deal to continue their career abroad. While there has been some scrutiny over the number of Kiwi stars heading overseas to continue their careers at the end of this season, Aso knows it's not all negative.
"It provides a lot of opportunities for players pursuing goals here in New Zealand; whether it's the black jersey or even accomplishing goals for your Super Rugby franchise," he says.
"Although we are losing some experience, I guess it's a time for our young talent to step up and show the world what we can display."
Aso quickly impressed in the Hurricanes match day squad and established himself as a rising star. In the 2017 season, he was the team's second highest try scorer – crossing the stripe 14 times – and was on track to hit the same mark in 2018 before a wrist injury ended his campaign prematurely.
His early season form, however, had caught the eye of All Blacks selectors, who suggested he would have been in the frame for a call up to the national squad for the Rugby Championship had he been fit.
"That was a big shock to me, hearing about my name being thrown around the All Blacks coaches," Aso admits. "I knew I wasn't going to be able to play so I was gutted but I was also happy as well. It was something that made me want to work even harder, hearing about it."
However, it was five months before Aso he was able to pass a ball again and get back into training, so there was no chance of a miraculous recovery and a shot at securing All Blacks jersey.
His form in recent years hadn't just brought him to the attention of the national selectors, but a number of clubs abroad were interested in bringing the rising star over to their clubs.
Aso received multiple offers from France and Japan for 2020 and beyond, but knocked them back to re-sign with the Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby.
"I was flattered, but told them I wanted to accomplish some goals and not leave New Zealand without any regrets."
Committing to the Hurricanes and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2020, Aso has no doubt he'll be able to get back into the form that he's shown over the past three years – putting in plenty of extra work heading into the season to take his game to another level.
"The work behind the scenes that people don't see is what made me perform to my best at times. (It's about) doing little extras where I can sharpen my skills and not getting bored of doing the same, basic skills that can be crucial at times during a game."