Kirisome Auva'a knows from experience how fortunate he is to be a professional footballer. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Kirisome Auva'a almost packed it in.
Stuck in Melbourne's reggies, running around with NSW Cup feeder team Cronulla, some 963 kilometres from where he wanted to be. Watching good mates like Mahe Fonua make it in the top grade, while he was flat out figuring how he'd be making a quid in 12 months time.
"Towards the end of last year, I actually was thinking 'I don't know where I'm going,'" Auva'a says.
"I wasn't getting offers from anywhere, or interest from anywhere.
"And I did tell my mate, Young Tonumapea, I might just become a bodybuilder if I don't get anything here. I told him straight up. I had to think of what I was going to do, where I was going to, and yeah that was a bit scary."
Having chased an NRL dream since he was 15, from Auckland to Ipswich and then down to Melbourne on his own two days out of high school, the Samoan-born three-quarter had just about hit the bricks.
Keeping the youngster going was the rather brutal taste of the nine-to-five grind that awaited him if he called it quits on the 13-man game.
After all, up there with parking officer, elected government official, and ambulance-chasing lawyer, telling folk you're a debt collector is a sure fire way to lose friends and alienate people.
"Oh man, that was a head job and a half," Auva'a laughs of the position he held for two years with a leading international debt recovery agency in Melbourne's CBD.
"It's angry people every day. Every day is a hassle trying to get people to pay up their missed payments; trying to explain that to people's pretty rough.
"All over the phone thankfully, you'd be mad to turn up in person. I let someone else do that. I'm no standover man – too much stress.
"I was there for a couple of years, but towards the end I couldn't handle it; a nutcase every day.
"I was waking up thinking who's going to blow up at me today. I told the club in 2012 that I couldn't handle it anymore, but they just said you're almost done here, keep going with it.
"Doing something like that makes you realise just how good playing footy for a living is."
No wonder the kid's grabbed his opportunity in the Rabbitohs backline with both hands, and ensured the likes of Nathan Merritt, Lote Tuqiri, Joel Reddy, Bryson Goodwin – a quartet with over 600 NRL games between them – have had to bide their time in the NSW Cup.
It's a scenario Auva'a, who has helped himself to eight tries and missed just one game since making his debut against Penrith in Round 6, admits he didn't expect to eventuate so fast when he first arrived at Redfern.
"No, definitely didn't expect to be where I am now, not yet anyway," Auva'a says.
"Madge [Souths coach Michael Maguire] gave me a call and said there's an opportunity here. And I thought there was a better pathway to play regular NRL games here, so I took the punt coming here and now I'm loving it.
"I'm really enjoying Sydney and it's a two-year deal with the Rabbitohs, so I've got another year of a guaranteed job, I can't complain.
"And 100 per cent footy's more enjoyable than debt collecting. That's just a given."