Carney's 'toughest year' takes turn
He has spent a year in rugby league exile playing for Atherton in Far North Queensland and working in the local pub but Cronulla five-eighth Todd Carney has revealed that 2014 has been the toughest year of his career.
Few know the highs and lows of what life in the NRL can offer than Carney who was banished from the game at the highest level in 2009 because of repeated alcohol-related incidents whilst playing at the Raiders.
But a persistent hamstring injury, the overhanging spectre of the ASADA investigation into activities at Cronulla in 2011 and a team that had been able to record just two wins prior to Friday night's shock comeback victory over the Broncos has made the 2014 season his most difficult to date.
"Last year we were winning and emotions in rugby league, when you're winning, you're always on a high," Carney explained of the different emotional toll this year has taken.
"For me, it's been probably my toughest year because I've been injured and I pride myself as a clubman and a person and for us to cop so much criticism for the way we're playing, the ASADA stuff and this last few weeks, it's hard.
"[The win over Brisbane] is definitely a turn in the right direction for the club and I feel it's the turning point we needed and this week's been a great week for the club."
Although he had been absent for all but one of the Sharks' record run of three consecutive defeats without registering a point, Carney never doubted that the side had the necessary ingredients to pile points on when the opportunity presented itself.
It was Carney's pin-point accurate cross-field kick for rookie winger Jacob Gagan that broke a 324-minute point-scoring drought in the 54th minute against Brisbane and he admitted that seeing the youngster ground the ball was a huge weight off his shoulders.
"I saw him pointing for it that he wanted it and I saw them wedging on their line so I put up the kick... Just to score that try, that first try, it wouldn't have been enough but it was a relief," Carney told NRL.com, who seemed to forget how to safely score a try himself, winding himself when he fell on the ball for his try in the 64th minute.
"I was sick of the headlines of us not scoring points, how many minutes we'd gone without scoring a point... There were other teams losing. It doesn't matter whether you lose by one or a hundred, you're still losing so I thought we copped a fair bit of unfair criticism there but it was good to get the win tonight, it all changes.
"I was only a part of one of the three games (in which the Sharks failed to score a point) but I know if we play to our potential we can score points. It doesn't matter if we haven't done it the last three weeks, I knew we were capable of scoring points and we were capable of scoring points in the first half, we just didn't complete. If you don't have the ball you can't score.
"It wins you games. It doesn't matter who you are, [completing sets] will win you games and when you do that, that's why you win and that's why we came back from 22-0 down tonight."
Along with Carney's ongoing hamstring complaints, halfback Jeff Robson has been restricted to just eight games through 16 rounds due to facial injuries suffered in a pre-season trial and an ongoing calf complaint and the 2010 Dally M Medal winner conceded that he is more effective when he has Robson by his side.
"It's like anything, if you take your two halves out like we have been before this week, it's hard to win," Carney admitted. "Me and 'Robbo' have got a combination that I think works for me, and for him. He can take the control and I can play on the back of it and chime in where he's not.
"It's good for us and I think the whole team gets confidence off that, not just me, and we all just feed off it."