Eels back-rower Kenny Edwards says he has moved past a mid-year slump where he doubted himself and now feels as though his confidence has returned.
Criticised at times for overplaying his hand – particularly in a narrow one-point win over Canterbury in Round 17 in which a couple of crucial errors nearly cost his team – Edwards is now riding a wave of form into his first ever NRL finals series.
"There is that 'good Kenny' and 'bad Kenny' but the last couple of weeks I've just worried about playing my game and playing with energy rather than the s***," Edwards laughed.
"The last couple of weeks I've sort of narrowed it back to just playing my game and I think it's working for me. Hopefully this week I can go out there and give the boys my best again.
"I went through a patch during the year where I just doubted myself. Now I'm back to playing confident footy. I'm a confident person. I just took a few knocks through the year that sort of got me down but now I'm back to playing the way I do and being a confident player."
Those knocks included a disciplinary suspension that put him out of the first eight weeks of the competition – a time that instilled in Edwards a need to make it up to his teammates – plus some off games like the Canterbury one.
Reflecting on his long journey to a first finals campaign – one that saw him moved on from the Wests Tigers, Sea Eagles and Dragons before he had even made his NRL debut – Edwards said he had found a home at Parramatta, the club that threw him a lifeline in 2013.
The Eels have repeatedly extended Edwards on new contracts – most recently through to the end of 2019 – and he has rewarded their loyalty with some game-breaking on-field efforts.
"I've been here for the last five years. I love the players, love the coaching staff, love the club. I'm just looking forward to what lies ahead,' Edwards told NRL.com ahead of this weekend's semi-final against the Cowboys.
"I think every interview goes back to the way it started but at the end of the day I'm happy now, my kids are happy, I'm happy on the field, I'm happy off the field. We're in the finals. Life's good at the moment."
Edwards praised the influence of Eels coach Brad Arthur; the mentor's recruitment to the club in 2013 a turning point for the once-wayward Edwards.
"I think this has been building the last few years. [Arthur] came on at the end of 2013, took us into the '14 season. We missed out on the playoffs by for-and-against," Edwards recalled.
"It's been a long journey. I remember coming off the park in Round 26 against Souths and looking at Brad and saying 'it's been a long road.' We're still building, we're still learning every day and trying to get better.
"For me, going into the 2014 season, before that season I played five-eighth my whole life going up. I got recruited to come to Australia with the Wests Tigers as a five-eighth when I was 15 but I'd never really incorporated that into my play.
"My role now is sort of as a ball-playing back-rower and he brought that out in me. Before that I didn't do much ball-playing, I was just a runner and a tackler.
"Now I try and be a point of difference in our attack. With Mitch [Moses] coming to the club it's made it a whole lot easier for 'Normy' and the rest of our side.
"Me and Mitch are the same [type of] players: we look up, play what's in front of us, if something's on we'll call it. If it comes off it's good, if it doesn't – we don't leave any stone unturned."