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Roosters recruit Paul Carter at the 2017 Downer NRL Auckland Nines.

Given some of the players who have joined the club in recent years you could call Roosters HQ the NRL's version of the last chance saloon, but there's an element of such opportunity at all NRL clubs.

As a game we aren't afraid to nurture struggling souls with difficult upbringings because we can see the inherent good in each of them, just as much off the field as on it.

It's true, those with greater talent tend to be given more pardons than those who a footy club could well do without but we are prepared in many instances to forgive and forget if we can see significant changes for the better.

If we didn't, Paul Carter would be installing roof insulation or working on a building site rather than preparing for a season with a third different NRL club in the space of four years.

Carter made his Sydney Roosters debut at last weekend's Downer NRL Auckland Nines and defied the advice of the club physio to play through the discomfort of an ankle injury he aggravated in the semi-final to take his place in the final against the Panthers.

Ask Roosters coach Trent Robinson about his contribution to the club during pre-season and the man who guided the Roosters to three minor premierships in his first three seasons uses just one word: "Incredible."

Because the Paul Carter we see in the stark view of daylight is not the young man whose failures you have read about in recent years which have stemmed from an inability to mix alcohol with proper decisions.

What struck me when I first met Carter was the directness with which he held your gaze and the polite manner in which he spoke.

One journalist covering the Nines was amazed that Carter remembered his name… three years after last interviewing him at an under-20s game.

For all intents and purposes he gives the impression of a nice young man who turns into an absolutely tenacious competitor on the field.

He and David Klemmer would go so hard at each other as promising youngsters at Bulldogs training sessions they would often near come to blows and after 21 games with the Titans in 2014 he was named the club's rookie of the year.

Yet a string of alcohol-related incidents saw him sacked by both the Titans and Rabbitohs and before he signed himself into a Thai rehabilitation clinic midway through last year, vowing to give up drinking and other vices to save his rugby league career.

"I've been through it a couple of times now and I don't want to go back there," Carter said of his previous sackings.

"I learnt a lot about myself going over to Thailand and I'm grateful for this opportunity and I'm not going to let it go.

"I just learnt mainly about myself and who I am as a person and that I don't need all that crap in my life.

"The most I got out of it was that there was no media, no phones, nothing it's just you and you have a good look at yourself and you find out who you are.

"I'm off everything, and I'm going to keep it that way too." 

Somewhat ironically, Carter has turned to two teammates with similarly chequered paths in Mitchell Pearce and Jake Friend to stay on the straight and narrow.

Living within the NRL bubble exposes a 24-year-old such as Carter to temptation at every turn but he talks to the likes of Pearce and Friend about how to keep those demons at bay and according to Robinson is a player the rest of the squad want alongside them.

"His ethic is strong," said Robinson.

"He's such a hard worker and he's a team man. The off-field stuff is a fight and he's working really hard and he's right on track but he's a guy that you like to stand next to."

Purpose-built for the ferociousness of Origin if he can develop into a regular first-grader with the Roosters, Carter knows he has been fortunate to be given a third chance.

His place in the 17 for Round 1 against his old club on the Gold Coast is by no means assured but he is adamant that success or failure will no longer be determined by self-sabotage.

"When everyone gets to that point where you're too drunk they do things they didn't do when they were sober. With me I just can't afford to do that in the position I'm in," Carter said.

"I love this club. It's just the culture that's built here over the years and the people within it.

"It's like a big family and from day one I felt welcome and I've loved every moment here so far and I don't want to lose that.

"I really appreciate what they've given me."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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