Former Titan returns a changed man
Twelve months after sweating away in the rooves of Gold Coast houses installing insulation Paul Carter has returned a changed man and a potentially important cog in South Sydney's 2016 premiership campaign.
Speaking for the first time since joining the Rabbitohs midway through last season, Carter will start on the bench on Saturday against his former club, the Titans, the club that sacked him just months after proclaiming him their 2014 rookie of the year.
The former Australian Schoolboy exceeded all expectations by playing 21 games in his first season at the Titans two years ago, but two drink driving convictions in the space of six months saw the club tear up his contract.
Confined to rehabilitation and a 10-hour-a-day job installing roofing insulation, Carter's rugby league future was suddenly clouded before the Rabbitohs issued a lifeline just prior to the June 30 deadline last season.
The 23-year-old played four of the last five games of South Sydney's season and is now determined to repay the Rabbitohs for allowing him a second shot in the NRL.
"There are a lot of changes. This time last year I was working away up in a roof so it's definitely good to be back training with these boys," Carter told NRL.com on the eve of the Rabbitohs' final trial game.
"It's a great club and I feel really privileged to be a part of it, thankful that 'Madge' (Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire) has given me an opportunity.
"[I've learnt] not to take anything for granted and to enjoy every moment.
"It's not going to be here forever and I feel really lucky to have been given this second opportunity by the Rabbitohs and I feel really proud to be at this club."
With a high-energy game that thrives on heavy physical contact, Carter will benefit enormously from the influence of Sam Burgess who he will play alongside for the first time at Pizzey Park on Saturday evening.
Given permission by Maguire to 'go hunting' with his aggressive defence when the opposition is coming out of their own end, Carter said he is already learning from Burgess how to play with controlled aggression.
"It was a bit of a shock for everyone when he came back so it's awesome now to be playing with him," said Carter, the son of Panthers legend Steve Carter.
"We all know how much of a great player he is and it's going to be great to get out there and play with all the boys tomorrow.
"He's the type of player that I think a lot of people look up to and he's also really helpful around the sheds.
"He's always there to give you a hand and give you a tip so I'll take whatever he has to say on board."
There was quality and quantity in Carter's work against the Dragons in the Charity Shield last weekend with some bone-crunching hits in his tally of 40 tackles.
He looked strong and mobile in South Sydney's training run on the Gold Coast on Friday and Maguire said the lessons of the past will help to determine the future Carter makes for himself.
"He's really focused on what he wants to try and achieve with his footy and he's a quality player," Maguire said.
"It's really up to him where he takes that.
"He's learnt a lot I guess from previous years but this pre-season he's put his head down and he's in really good shape."
With Damien Cook and Cameron McInnes likely to work in tandem as the two hooking options in the 17 for the Rabbitohs, Carter will be vying for a spot on the bench along with the likes of Thomas Burgess, Chris Grevsmuhl, Jason Clark and Nathan Brown.
"I've obviously got goals to try and play well and get a spot in the 17 each week," Carter said.
"'Madge' is obviously going to pick the best team and it's a really competitive squad that we've got here so I'm going to have to be on my toes to get a spot in that side."