I’d had three shoulder reconstructions while I was in the 20s and that hurt my development. I started to get frustrated. I thought that if I was going to play reserve grade, I might as well do it in Sydney – at least that way my mum and dad could come and watch me play and I could hang around with my mates.
There was no new contract for me at the Storm, but there was a two-year offer from Souths, so I took it. Funnily enough, I finally got my first grade debut at the Storm midway through last season, after I’d signed with the Rabbitohs.
I’d talked to Craig Bellamy and told him that even though I was leaving at the end of the year, I’d still be playing my guts out to try to get a game before I left. He obviously liked that attitude, because he gave me one. I was thrilled with that.
As it turned out, I was able to join Souths earlier than expected and I came up here for the last two months of the season. I played a few games for Norths and then in the last round of the year, Madge Maguire gave me a run off the bench against Parramatta. I think Gus Crichton was sick and Sammy Burgess was injured, so a few spots had opened up.
It was a bit weird, making debuts for two different clubs in the same season, but after years of battling away before getting my break, I was happy to take it whichever way I could.
I considered it a good year.
‘DON’T GET DISHEARTENED’
I’ve learned a lot about the value of perseverance.
I had to, or I wouldn’t be playing for Souths in a preliminary final against the Roosters this weekend. I’d be watching along with everyone else.
The best advice dad has ever given me is also the simplest: ‘Just keep hanging in there. Don’t get angry. Don’t get disheartened. Your time will come’.
If I’d said, ‘Stuff it!’ and given it away without finding out how far I could go, I know that 10 years down the track I’d be filthy at myself. My dream is to play footy at this level until I’m at least 30.
I’ve never been the biggest player. I’ve always been tall – I’m six foot four, like my dad – but I’m not thick-set like him. I’m more like his dad – my late pop, Gary – who was tall, but skinny.
Ever since I was young, people told me to get heavier and I got out to 103 kilos at the Storm. But I didn’t feel as fit. I’m back to 99 now and I feel that’s right for me. I can handle the collisions and I’ve still got my mobility. We’ve got enough big boys in our team anyway. It’s not like we need more size.
I’m not going to run over the top of people, but I can hold my own against players bigger than me. I don’t get pushed back or rag-dolled and there are other ways to make an impact apart from with sheer size.
I use my ball skills, footwork, hit-and-spins. I get people pushing up around me to help me make my metres. I make sure I’m not an easy target. And on top of that, I make my tackles.
Dad always knew. He’d see me trying to put on weight and he’d ask, ‘Why are you doing that? You’re playing good footy the way you are. You’re still hitting with plenty of intent and aggression. Concentrate on that’.
I thought if I was ever playing a big finals game in the NRL, I’d be as nervous as hell, because I usually struggled with nerves just playing reserve grade. But I’m not that nervous. I’m more confident and I think it’s because I’m surrounded by so many good players. It’s all very clear what I have to do.
Dad was the first person I rang when I got picked to make my debut for the Storm, and again for the Rabbitohs.
I love getting out of the city and spending time with him at his business. I can’t ask for better support than I get from him and my mum, Joanne, and my three sisters, Alannah, Tiarne and Abby.
They all know this is my big chance.
I can’t look too far ahead, but if we’re good enough to beat the Roosters and I held my spot, I’d be blessed to play in a grand final in only my fifth game.
I want this to be the start of something.
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