'Rookie' Joyce stars in Auckland final
Last Saturday Reece Joyce stood on Mt Smart Stadium No.2 proudly holding Auckland's Fox Memorial Premiership in his arms, capping off a remarkable 12-month journey for the 25-year-old.
It was an historic occasion, with Joyce helping his Papakura Sea Eagles to their first-ever Auckland first division title.
But had it not been for his involvement in the inaugural season of the NRL Rookie TV show, Joyce said it's unlikely he would even be playing the game.
"If it wasn't for the NRL Rookie I would probably still be playing rugby union, but I think it was a good change and I am just excited to have another crack," Joyce told NRL.com following Papakura's 12-8 grand final victory over Pt Chevalier.
"I definitely could not have predicted this, I won a rugby union championship last year and now I am standing here having won a Fox Memorial championship, it's amazing how many things can change in a year.
"The last 12 months I would say have been a rollercoaster, but a rollercoaster that I would be willing to jump on again and take another spin on."
Through the 80 minutes Joyce was a standout in the final, and ran a close second in voting for the Man of the Match award at full-time.
Aside from a solid long kicking game, he controlled play well and terrorised the opposing back three with numerous towering bombs.
The Auckland-raised halfback credited his time in the NRL Rookie camp for advancing those skills, helped in particular by the guidance of former State of Origin playmakers Brad Fittler and Adrian Lam.
But it's an improved understanding of the mental aspects of his game which Joyce believed had set him back on the correct path.
"I feel like I am peaking at the right stage of my life," Joyce said.
"I think if I had got a crack when I was a bit younger I might have gone off the rails, but I am mentally stronger at the moment and I think I am ready.
"I was mentally strong going into the NRL Rookie, but they showed me how much I could actually push myself. If it wasn't for me joining that show I wouldn't be as mentally tough as I am right now.
"[The next step] is hopefully pushing it up another level, playing NSW Cup or having a crack at NRL, so fingers crossed everything goes my way.
"I have heard a few whispers through the grapevine about some opportunities, but I can't say too much right now.
"If it comes it comes, but if it doesn't at least I have won a Fox Memorial Premiership now."