From a short fuse to leader: Teina Clark's hard road to the top
St George Illawarra recruit Teina Clark is aware people in the women's rugby league circle may know of her story.
It was five years ago Clark was involved in an incident with former professional boxer Lauryn Eagle during a club match in the Illawarra competition.
The NSWRL handed down a six-month suspension to the then 25-year-old, who was just 24 hours out from flying to England in preparation for a World Cup debut with New Zealand.
Clark won't go into detail of what exactly happened but maintained her regret as she battled a long road of self-discovery.
"The hardest part was accepting it, I won't forget what I'd done and why I did it," Clark tells NRL.com.
"I let my Kiwi Ferns teammates down. I still have my 2013 jersey, the only thing I haven't done is worn it.
"It took me down a dark path where I didn't care about footy, I didn't care about anyone – myself and family included. I was silly then, had a short fuse. I was pretty bad."
Clark's parents had had enough of her immaturity at the time and demanded her to reach out for help.
She stopped playing the game following her suspension to focus on herself.
"Both Mum and Dad are strict but supportive. Dad is the main mentor, critic – pretty honest though," Clark said.
"My doctor was really good, he said to me whatever has happened in the past has done for my own good.
"You can use that in any context as a positive or negative in life. I used that as I didn't get to go to England so that must have been a sign.
"It changed me in a way where it made me grow up a bit. It opens your eyes that there are consequences for your actions. That was the biggest learning curve that I've experienced in my life."
After serving her suspension, Clark got into coaching to share her knowledge with young female players coming through the system in Sydney's west.
"We had some rough girls coming through in that team, but just to get them away from their family troubles and off the streets for a couple of nights a week was good," Clark said.
"I tell the young ones that are rough like me that you don't want to be like old me. There is a balance you need to adjust to. Everyone thinks that I am tough. When I play I can be rough but when it's over, I'm soft off the field."
At 29, Clark admits she may be past her prime, but the NRL Holden Women's Premiership has sparked a new fire in her belly.
She made her debut with the Jillaroos in 2007 but was eligible to switch allegiances to New Zealand for the 2013 World Cup.
"I think I peaked early in my career, very early," Clark said.
"Back then we had nothing, we had to pay to play. I feel like a veteran now. We've come a long way to the day we had to pay for our own bus trips.
"I'm grateful to be back in the mix, down for the ride."
Clark's belated dream of representing the Kiwi Ferns could come to fruition with a Test match against the Jillaroos likely to happen in October.
She'll use her stint at the Dragons as a stepping stone for higher honours.
"Hopefully I do well this campaign and pull that black jersey on," Clark said.
"If I am successful it would be my parents' dreams come true. It would be an honour and bring relief. I would make up for lost time."
And this time if successful, she'll use her last five years of life experience to make sure it happens.