A rotten start to the year for Manly's Dylan Walker will end with a finals appearance, which has prompted the 24-year-old to stand in front of his Sea Eagles team-mates and thank them.
"I said it to them yesterday… for just being good mates to me," Walker said on Tuesday, four days out from facing the Sharks at Lottoland in the NRL's first elimination final.
"I just said 'thank you'. There was a lot of talk about football and stuff but I sort of went the sentimental side and thanked them for being there not just for me but for my family as well."
Walker missed the opening 10 rounds of the season as he fought domestic violence charges over an incident last December with partner Alexandra Ivkovic. He was cleared in May of two counts of assault.
Match: Sea Eagles v Sharks
Finals Week 1 -
Venue: Lottoland, Sydney
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
"Coming into this week, obviously I don't take any game for granted now. I was looking down the barrel of potentially being gone…. I'm blessed each day," Walker said.
"I reflect every day on how grateful I am to have such good team-mates, family, friends, that support base around me.
"I come in here every day and want to work out more, do every little thing I can to get myself right for each and every game. That's me repaying the boys back for helping me through tough times."
The challenge is now for Walker to suit up in the No.6 jersey for the Sea Eagles opposite Kiwis Test half Shaun Johnson.
Walker said there was no longing to return to the centres, where he played for Australia and for the Rabbitohs in their NRL triumph.
"I'm loving it at five-eighth. I'm really enjoying my time there. I have fun and get to the call for the ball more, get it a little bit earlier," Walker said.
"It's a position I’d love to stay in, just because I'm understanding the game more and Chez [Daly Cherry-Evans] and Dessie [Hasler] are really helping me with that.
"Chez is one of the best halves in the game running around now. So just to dissect that and pick his brain a bit, there's a lot for me to learn and excel as a player.
"This position will help me grow as a player to new levels."
With that in mind, Walker needs a new contract to keep playing. His current Manly deal runs out this year.
"I've sort of put that in the background and just focus on football stuff really. I've had litlte conversations about it but I want to concentrate on playing right now," he said.
"But I'd love to stay here if I could – perhaps you could ask Dessie about that. I'm optimistic about it. For me it's just now about the finals and trying to get a win."