Russell Packer insists he never gave up hope of playing in the NRL again after ending a 15-month absence when he returned for Wests Tigers in Saturday night's loss to Canberra.
Packer only saw 12 minutes of action during an eventful second half stint in which he was sin-binned for a professional foul and later placed on report for a high shot on Raiders second-rower Joseph Tapine.
The ensuing penalty enabled Canberra captain Jarrod Croker to secure the win for his side with a 68th-minute penalty goal and Packer is now facing a suspension after being charged with a grade three careless high tackle.
However, Packer was upbeat after recovering from operations last year and during the 2020 pre-season on his foot that threatened to force him into premature retirement.
"It's been a tough journey," Packer said. "I had a surgery in August last year on my foot and had some other complications and needed to go for a second operation earlier this year.
Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Raiders
"Like anyone who gets injured you go through ups and downs mentally. That's the beauty of this game. If you persevere you get your chance and opportunities."
It was suggested to Packer that a medical retirement that would have guaranteed his contract for the next two seasons but he wanted to continue playing.
The 30-year-old had already missed two seasons after being jailed in 2013 for assault and has turned his life around to win the RLPA Male Academic Player of the Year award in 2019.
"I've got pretty good at not listening to people over my life," he said. "I went and saw a couple of different doctors and had a few roadblocks. There is no doubt about that. My recovery from the first surgery had some lingering complications.
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"I'm a pretty optimistic person. I have been through a few things in my life where I probably thought things were going to happen where most people wouldn't. I guess that's a belief.
"I've had a lot of support from all my family, my partner, and immediate family. And all the support staff here [at Wests Tigers], the previous physios and new guys this year. When you go through any long injury or major operation it is always a journey.
"It's hard for any athlete. You go through a lot of emotions, it just a long time you are out and you go through a lot of pain. It's not something you can do on your own.
"After the journey I have been on I am just grateful to be back on the field and grateful that my body is able to play again."
Packer said he was disappointed with his comeback performance but the Kiwi international is confident he can improve.
Like anyone who gets injured you go through ups and downs mentallyWests Tigers prop Russell Packer
"I need to do better than to go out there, and even at the end of the game with Joey [Tapine], I committed to the tackle [and] he was low.
"I gave away the penalty and they go up by eight. It's definitely not good enough from someone of my experience.
"But after the last year, it was quite satisfying just to get back after some adversity, after different surgeries on my foot, to be available for selection and get back on the field."