All seemed lost for Dane Nielsen.
Barely 12 months ago Nielsen was sacked two games into a two-year St George Illawarra contract after a woman claimed he bit her on the leg during a drinking session at a Cronulla nightspot.
Suddenly Nielsen was running around in the Mackay competition in the state’s north.
He was a former Queensland Origin player.
He had won premierships with Melbourne.
How the mighty had fallen.
Nielsen managed to snag a 2015 contract in England, albeit with semi-professional, second tier outfit Bradford.
He lasted just five games.
At 30, Nielsen never thought he would play NRL again.
No wonder he was surprised about making his South Sydney debut in Friday night’s 30-8 loss in Brisbane.
“To be honest I wasn’t sure whether it (NRL return) was going to happen after last year,” Nielsen said.
“But I got the chance to come back to a good club and put my head down and worked my backside off.”
In a twist of fate, Nielsen was thrown an NRL lifeline by South Sydney coach Michael Maguire after losing Dylan Walker to Manly and missing out on James Roberts to Brisbane in the pre-season.
He arrived in January – two months behind his teammates in their pre-season preparation.
Maguire offered no promises.
“I spoke to him after New Year’s. He didn’t guarantee me anything but he said if an opportunity came up he had full trust in me to do the job,” Nielsen said.
“I returned in January. I had a lot of catching up to do – it was pretty tough.
“I am not sure that will happen from here but I want to make the most of it.”
Nielsen held his own on Rabbitohs debut – much to Maguire’s delight.
“It’s a really good story,” he said.
“To see him have the highs then face some resilience the last couple of years says a lot about him as a person.
“He didn’t have a pre-season but he worked extremely hard to get himself this opportunity.
“And to have a senior player in this organisation is going to help the younger players through this sort of period.”
South Sydney have slumped to their fifth loss in six games.