Chris Sandow has not been sighted in the NRL with Parramatta since Round 17 last season. Copyright: Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Sandow's return a test of character

Exiled NRL star Chris Sandow must first grow as a person before he can expect to earn a recall to the top grade according to 2001 Dally M Player of the Year Preston Campbell.

With Parramatta coach Brad Arthur showing a preference for Luke Kelly at half in the opening rounds of the season, Sandow has been forced to bide his time in the VB NSW Cup, playing starring roles in Wentworthville's strong start to the year.

He scored a try, laid on one for Ken Sio and kicked five goals in a 38-24 triumph over the Warriors in Round 1 and then last weekend had a hand in tries for Ryan Morgan and Sio as well as kicking six goals as the Magpies defeated Newtown 44-10.

Sandow represents more than half a million dollars of Parramatta's annual salary cap running around in reserve grade and Campbell believes that how he responds to that disappointment will determine whether he can ever establish himself as an NRL halfback again.

"I'm confident he'll get back if he shows the traits of a person with good character," Campbell said of the 2008 Rookie of the Year. "We know he's a talented footballer, it's just a matter of him changing a few things that will better him as a rugby league player but also better him as a person.

"We all know he can play football but as a person and his character, he's just going to grow that. Just like Jharal [Yow Yeh], he's a very young man and there's still a long time for him to get that opportunity to be able to come back and play NRL. I'm sure he's going to do his best in reserve grade because he's a great player so for me personally, I'd like to see him back in the NRL."

Eels CEO Scott Seward also expressed a desire to see Sandow rectify his highly-publicised off-field issues before making any kind of commitment on his future at Parramatta. Sandow is currently in the third year of a lucrative four-year deal at the Eels but Seward said the focus remains assisting the 25-year-old as a person rather than rushing him back into first grade.

"We help him in whatever we can that will help him not just as a footballer but as a person," Seward said. 

"That's what we've done and that's what we'll continue to do. And what that'll end up meaning we don't know but we want to make sure that Chris makes the right decision for him and his family and whatever happens in football will happen. 

"Every indication that I've got is that everything's OK. He's got to keep going and make sure that he keeps going in the right direction, keeps training hard, keeps working hard on and off the field and he'll get to where he needs to get to. 

"Whatever he's on is really irrelevant," Seward said of the hefty price tag the Eels are paying for Sandow. 

"Brad will pick the best 17 players in his opinion that'll do the best job for the Parramatta Eels regardless of what money they're being paid. That's Brad's job, to pick the team. He'll pick the best players that he thinks will represent the club in the very best way and I think that's where it'll go."

In 15 games for the Eels last year Sandow had 10 try assists and five line-breaks but hasn't been sighted in the top grade since Parramatta's 50-10 hiding at the hands of Manly Warringah in Round 17.

It's been a dramatic fall from grace for the youngster who burst onto the scene with South Sydney in 2008 but Campbell is confident that the penny may have finally dropped as to the opportunity he is potentially throwing away.

"It happens a lot in rugby league, guys come in early and I don't think they really appreciate what they're in," said Campbell. "They come in really young, they get paid a lot of money, they're put up on pedestals and all that sort of stuff so they don't really appreciate what it is that they're in.

"They kind of take it for granted sometimes but for Chrissy, he's realised that he's on a good wicket, playing rugby league, and he's just going to grow as a person."