Parramatta halfback Chris Sandow believes his most consistent season in the NRL is proof he is past the off-field troubles that have so far plagued his NRL career – and now he wants to cash in.
In a rare interview with the dynamic Eels No. 7 this year, Sandow also spoke of his desire to be the club's long-term halfback and how he took his individual battle against Manly pin-up boy Daly Cherry-Evans personally in Round 24.
Twelve months after running back home to Cherbourg – almost for good – a resurgent season allowed Sandow to take out the club's Ken Thornett medal last week with mum Rhonda once again by his side.
She was there when he won the Dally M Rookie of the Year award in 2008 but, more importantly, she was there when the prodigious playmaker hit rock bottom and finished last season in a rehabilitation clinic for gambling problems.
And she was never going to allow him to end his career like that.
"100 per cent, I did have thoughts about going back to Cherbourg. That's where I would've ended up," Sandow recalled just moments after pulling on the medal.
"But having a strong mum in Rhonda, she made it all possible me coming here and staying here at the Parramatta Eels.
"The last time I got a big award was Rookie of the Year and I took my mum then as well. I always love bringing my mum to special nights like this. She's the one that brought me into the world and I like to give her respect by bringing her to things like this."
Sandow had been somewhat of a quiet achiever at Parramatta this season, beginning his third year at the club in reserve grade before returning to put together his best year at Parramatta.
And the seven-year pro credited his turnaround to addressing his off-field issues that meant he was able to play his off-the-cuff game stress-free.
"A lot of ups and downs in the past, but I put that behind me now. I'm just enjoying my footy again and hopefully I get that opportunity again next year with the boys," he said.
"I think 2011 was just a one-man show, pretty much, at Souths. But in saying that, they've got great players [now].
"Here at Parra, it's a fresh start with a lot of young faces. I love seeing them at training each day and playing with them each week is a privilege of mine.
"I go into training with no stress on my shoulders. I’ve got no stress. All I'm worrying about is my family and me and also my team-mates."
Off contract at the end of next season, Sandow admits he'll be playing for his long-term future in 2014, one that hopefully leads to an extended stay in the blue and goal.
Reports continue to abound of the club's pursuit of Manly gun Daly Cherry-Evans, a year-long rumour Sandow admits he took personally in their home win over the Sea Eagles in Round 24.
"I did [take it personally] actually, yeah. We showed it at Parramatta Stadium when we beat the Manly Sea Eagles. Cherry, he was a bit quiet in that game, and I stood out," he said.
"But Daly's a great player. He's been there and done that. I like challenges, playing against the best. It showed that night when we beat the Eagles."
And now he wants a new deal to stay in western Sydney, where he hopes to become a mentor for Parramatta’s rising squad.
"I think I've grown into a real leader for the boys. There are a lot of young players here and I want to be a part of that," he said. "Hopefully I have another big pre-season and another big season to give me another contract here at Parramatta."