Departing Penrith prop Tim Grant says a desire to repay the club that developed him into an NRL player helped him stay motivated after being overlooked by coach Ivan Cleary for three months.
Grant hadn't been seen in the NRL since a Round 10 win in Canberra, but injury forced Cleary into recalling the former NSW prop for last week's victory over the Dragons in Wollongong.
There had been suggestions that Grant and Cleary hadn't been on good terms all year and, after signing a four-year deal with the Rabbitohs back in April, it looked as though the 26-year-old had played his last game for the club.
But after losing forwards Brent Kite, Elijah Taylor and Bryce Cartwright a fortnight ago, Cleary will now lean on Grant as the depleted Panthers limp into the finals.
The eight-year pro denied any falling out with Cleary and said he was determined to be ready when his number was to be called on again.
"At the end of the day, whatever happened with my decision and Ivan's decision, the boys haven't got a say on that. If the boys need you, you've got to be ready. For me it was about being ready," Grant told NRL.com.
"Ivan needs me to be ready as well. I just tried to keep doing my extras and I'll continue to do that. In any capacity I play, I'm just going to try my best. Because there's a lot of people at Panthers that have been there since day one with me and I'd like to thank them."
On the eve of his NRL return last week, Grant said he and Cleary met to discuss why he had been overlooked for the past 12 weeks.
"We chatted and there were four guys in good form. Why would you change it? I understand it. We've got a good understanding for each other. It was good," he said.
"It was definitely disappointing [not getting picked], but I understand how the business side of footy works. I totally respect Ivan's decision as well.
"I don't kick stones. That was the decision and as I said, I've still got a lot to offer the club in any capacity. That's what I'm trying to do."
Since Grant made his debut for Penrith in 2007, the club has played just two finals games for two losses, a record the Rabbitohs-bound prop hopes to change as his team surges towards September.
But more important to him, he says, is the opportunity to farewell the club on good terms.
"When I look back at Panthers, I'm happy with my time here. I've invested a lot of my energy and effort in everything. It's been my life since I was 14 years old," he said.
"Farewell or not, I feel like I've put into the culture of the club. I love the club. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it's not about me. It's about thanking people that have stuck by me. So it'd be good to be on the big stage and get a farewell to be honest."