James Roberts has revealed he seriously considered breaking free and quitting rugby league last season before finding new life at Wests Tigers.
Roberts made his return from a pectoral tear in Sunday's big trial win over Manly, marking the former NSW State of Origin centre's first game since last July.
The 27-year-old's 2020 included checking himself into a rehab clinic to help with his mental health, as well as an extended period out of the bubble after his injury.
He was also part of a protracted release from South Sydney, that included continued welfare support for his family before he linked with the Tigers.
But the story could have been so different, had Roberts followed through on a plan to give the game away.
"At one stage I was thinking of throwing it all in and just getting away from rugby league," Roberts said.
"Getting away from the media and all negative stuff and all the pressures and just focus on my family and I guess live a normal life.
"But luckily I had some time away and I found that hunger again.
"I found a good balance with my family and yeah, I'm just enjoying everything."
Roberts will form part of a deadly right edge combination at the Tigers, alongside noted try-scorer David Nofoaluma.
But it's off the field where he is finding the best balance.
Tigers officials have noted the strong personal space he has found himself in at the club since arriving in November.
Roberts also claimed this weekend he was in the best frame of mind since featuring for NSW and playing for Brisbane under Wayne Bennett in 2018.
"It is (the best headspace) for years," Roberts said.
"I can't remember the last time, maybe in 2018 at the Broncos. I've got a clear head and I'm just enjoying my footy and my life outside football.
"I've changed my whole mindset. Starting over and just, just being grateful for the opportunity that I have and I'm just enjoying my footy.
"Not worrying about the pressures and, and that outside noise. Just, doing what I know I'm capable of."
Roberts also put a lot of that down to Michael Maguire.
Maguire was in his first year as an NRL coach at Souths when the Rabbitohs sacked Roberts for repeated indiscretions in 2012, and the pair flirted with the idea of reuniting in 2016.
"He's been really supportive of me and helped me a lot," Roberts said.
"Over the years we've had our differences. I was a lot younger and a lot wilder. I had a few things going on. My priorities weren't in order.
"Now I'm in a good mind frame and it's good to work with him and try and excel my game on and off the field and help the young lads."
Australian Associated Press