Pettybourne vows to give Titans his best
It was a whirlwind return to the NRL over the off-season but Eddy Pettybourne says that the circumstances that led him to join the Gold Coast Titans will inspire him to produce the best football of his career.
A former Rabbitoh and Wests Tiger, Pettybourne returned to Australia suddenly late last year when his father Sonny fell ill with heart problems.
At the time Pettybourne was one year into a three-year deal with UK Super League powerhouse Wigan and showing no inclination that an NRL comeback was on the cards but he will be thrown right into the middle of the Tigers den when he faces his former club at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night.
In 121 appearances in the NRL and Super League Pettybourne has only ever started a match at prop on three occasions, but will be expected to lead the Titans' charge against representative front-rowers in Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway.
Woods was a teammate when Pettybourne played his last NRL game in Round 14, 2013 but the 27-year-old insists the events of the past six months have made him appreciate the opportunity afforded him.
"It was a pretty tough couple of months before with the old man being a bit sick but it's made me push to train harder and also to be grateful to be part of the game as well," Pettybourne told NRL.com.
"He had a bit of a heart problem but it's a bit hard when you're overseas and I'd rather be a bit closer to the old man, so now we're only an hour away on the plane.
"I learned a lot [in England] and I just want to come back here and play good footy. There are a lot of goals that I want to prove in the NRL and that's why I'm happy to be back here and grateful to start this week too.
"I just turned 27 and I want to end my career in a good phase. I want to know that after my career's done that I've done the best that I can and I've done every little thing right in the game. I just want to have fun and enjoy it as well, and make the old man proud."
According to stories Pettybourne has been told over the years, his father was a very good footballer back in New Zealand before alcohol issues conspired with a difficult upbringing to keep any potential in check.
He pushed a young Eddy to work hard even when his young – and admittedly overweight – body often refused to cooperate and instilled a work ethic that has seen him play Test footy for both Samoa and the United States.
"Growing up the old man was always strict with us with school and doing a lot of chores and stuff and I think that influenced us in everything that we did," said Pettybourne, who married long-time partner Faye Fiso – a former contestant on X Factor – in January.
"Footy wise, I always trained hard and the old man always pushed me. I was a big fella when I was younger so it was kind of hard back then.
"He always gave me the word and advice and always pushed me and even to this day he still gives me tips on how to improve my game.
"He's probably the only person that I know that is always truthful about my game so I always look to him. Sometimes it's a bit harsh but I cop it on the chin."
And if that phone call from the old man comes on Saturday night, Pettybourne will only be too happy to take the call.