Panthers playmaker Jamie Soward hits the game-winner against the Chooks.

The day Gus came calling for Soward

Judging by his emotional outpouring in the moments after he knocked the rugby league world off its axis with his finals-changing one-pointer last Saturday night, Jamie Soward has quite the story to tell. 

And he's given himself ample opportunity to do it: we're now in the 29th week of the footy calendar and he's stood in front of the cameras just about 29 times, including that memorable crack at funnyman Beau Ryan.  

But as he prepares for one of the biggest games of his career – a grand final qualifier against either Canterbury or Manly a fortnight from now – the reborn playmaker shed just a little more light on what we're going to call the greatest comeback story of the year. 

At least that's what it should be, given how close he was to setting off overseas. 

"I had European rugby, Japanese rugby... in 2012 it was an option. I was pretty close. At one stage I was close to Japanese rugby," he revealed on Monday. 

At that time, the premiership-winning Dragon had one more year to run with the Red V, but the NRL announced it would look into allowing its players to sign for stints overseas in a bid to compete with the market dollar. 

Players like Craig Wing have gone and never come back, and Soward was considering doing the same. 

"At the end of 2012 I was just about done. But it sort of fell through at the last minute," he said. 

"I didn't want to leave but that was the option we were looking at. As you well know, playing is a business and you just have to go when the going is good."

But that's when Penrith boss Phil Gould emerged from out of the shadows of the WIN Jubilee bleachers. The influential operator had already been politely knocked back by Johnathan Thurston and Todd Carney, so he wasn't going to let his third choice slip through the cracks. 

"I remember the day Gus called the game. It was the day we played the Knights at Kogarah," Soward recalled. 

"He was hanging around [the sheds], so I knew he wanted to see me for a reason. [And] it wasn't for an autograph. He wanted to catch up.

"... Once Gus had given me four years, it wasn't a try-and-fix-it-in-one-year thing. He had a vision for me. He put a lot of faith in me. The whole organisation has done that so I can't be more grateful. Once I signed that deal I was ready to be back in the NRL."

And, judging by that 35m low-drive that soared just over the crossbar last weekend, he's ready to be back on the big stage as well. 

The one-time NSW pivot was almost in tears when he ran back towards the southern end of Allianz Stadium, coming to grips with what he had just delivered the success-starved town of Penrith, much less himself. 

"A lot of people bag me and say I carry on, make a goose of myself by yelling out," he said. "But that's how footy is. That's how much it means to me, personally. 

"That's how much it means to the coaching staff and the team. One per cent of our week is the 80 minutes you guys see on Saturday or Sunday. We've got a whole week to prepare for that one thing that can change our week. 

"It's why everyone wants to be here; to be on the big stage. It's about passion. It's about pride in what you're doing, in your performance, in the jersey."