Titan No.100 considered quitting
He was touted as one of the Titans' key off-season signings but David Hala almost quit the game mid-season before he'd even had a chance to play for the club.
Hala wrote his name into the Titans' history books when he became the 100th player to represent the club, coming off the bench 34 minutes into last week's loss to the Storm and backs up for game number two against the Bulldogs on the Central Coast on Sunday.
It's a match that in theory the Titans have no right to win, but with a winning streak over Canterbury that stretches back four games, the big Bulldogs squad will be one that is respected but not feared.
At 187 centimetres and 115 kilograms and with weight-lifting records at the Broncos and Titans, Hala's imposing frame will be integral in quelling any Bulldogs momentum through the middle third but a string of knee injuries almost saw him throw his career away.
A troublesome left knee that had come through a gruelling pre-season endured a medial ligament injury a week before Round 1 and when he suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury after two months playing for Burleigh in the Intrust Super Cup, Hala seriously questioned whether his body was up to it any more.
"There were a couple of dark times there when I was wondering whether it was worth it or not and I just talked to family members who kept telling me to keep going," said Hala, who will wed his fiancée Robyn in Brisbane in October.
"There was a time there where I'd had a lot of injuries and it seemed like I was off the park more than I was on the park and I definitely tossed up quitting but the amount of support I had, I just found that love for the game again and it's easy now."
So easy in fact that Hala is perhaps the only player in the NRL already looking forward to pre-season training.
Conscious of the extra demands the reduction in the number of interchanges will have on the big boys from 2016, Hala is already planning an off-season schedule of boxing and running to strip 10kg from his frame, his only let-up a honeymoon in Thailand.
It won't be to quite the extreme of those who feature in his favourite TV show, Doomsday Preppers, but the 25-year-old says that when pre-season commences in November, he'll be ready.
"I can't wait. I just want to get off on the right foot," Hala said of another torturous pre-season.
"I've already started preparing because I know with these changes coming in I need to play at a really light weight next year, around 105 [kilograms].
"As soon as I finish the season I'm getting straight into some sort of other training like boxing or something like that.
"I've done boxing in the pre-season before and I've felt like it helps and I'll do the stock-standard running, team up with some of the trainers in the off-season because to be honest I can't afford to not come back in a reasonable shape.
"I don't want to be playing catch-up the whole pre-season."
Hala's club debut may have gone unnoticed by everyone outside of the Gold Coast but the Redcliffe junior hopes it represents a new beginning at a club that could use some extra grunt up front.
"I just want to get a lot of game time and to prove to the coaching staff that I do belong here and that I belong in first grade and to get more NRL under my belt before next season and get some confidence," Hala told NRL.com.
"To finally get that opportunity on the weekend just meant everything to me. I had a pretty tough pre-season and to finally get that game and to be the 100th player was a bonus so it was really special for me."