It was coming to the end of February. I’d virtually done all my pre-season at the Cowboys. I arrived early in the week, trained with the team for the first time on the Wednesday, and on the Thursday I was on a bus with the rest of the guys heading to Mudgee to play in the Charity Shield.
The trip up was the first real chance I’d had to relax with the guys and get to know them a bit better. I’d obviously played against a lot of them, but I didn’t really know them. We just talked and played cards. It was a bit of fun and I was able to loosen up a bit that way.
It was a crazy week, but everyone at the club was great when it came to making me feel welcome.
The beautiful thing about all of this is that, as hard as it was for me personally to leave the Cowboys, I knew I was coming to a club that was capable of winning the premiership. They were only one game out of the grand final last year.
That’s how it is with footy. Things might not be going so well, but then a great opportunity presents itself. You’ve just got to be smart enough to recognise it and know what’s good for you.
As it’s turned out, Wayne’s personality and his general approach to coaching suits me. He’s straightforward and uncomplicated. If you’re not getting what he says, you’re not paying attention.
I was the last man into this squad, but I really feel a part of it. That’s because of the attitude of the players, Wayne and his coaching staff.
Every club has their own way of initiating things with new recruits and at Souths you have to stand up and answer a few questions from the group.
They asked me stuff like where I come from, about my family, what I like to do away from footy. A couple of the guys tried to embarrass me with their questions, but I guessed that would be coming. You soon find out who the jokers are! It was all good fun. Just breaking the ice.
It was only a one-year deal at Souths, but if I play well enough, the future beyond that would look after itself.
I’m loving the challenge here. Like any player I’d rather be starting, but I’ve been getting good game-time off the bench. More than half a game each week.
I’m 28, but I can still learn. I can still get better. If you don’t learn you’re standing still and others go past you. It’s career suicide. So you’ve always got to try adding little things and improving here and there. I make a point of that.
I know the rich tradition and history the Rabbitohs have.
I may not be from Sydney, but I did spend several years here playing under-20s for the Roosters before I switched to the Cowboys.
Souths are a club that like to keep their former champions close and I’ve met a few of them already, Ron Coote included.
He actually presented me with my jersey in the dressing-room before I made my Rabbitohs debut against the Roosters in round one. He talked about the honour it was going to be for me, to go out there and play for this great club, and he said what it meant to him when he did the same thing.
It was pretty special and I deeply appreciated it. The way a club like this does those things is pretty cool. I walk into our training complex and see all these famous names and photos all over the walls and I can’t help but realise just how much this club has brought to rugby league. The Ron Cootes, the Clive Churchills, the Bob McCarthys.
People like to honour their heroes for good reason. I got a sense of that when I was a kid back home, where they’ve got a statue of the great racehorse from the 1970s, Gunsynd. His owners came from Goondiwindi. My grandma had a framed photo of Gunsynd at her house.
I know this is the right place for me to be at this stage of my career. I fit in. I feel settled. I’ve just got to do my job and keep producing and that’s a challenge I’ve always embraced.