Former Sydney Roosters and Canberra winger Justin Carney is ready to make a fresh start as he comes to terms with being labelled the bad boy of Super League.
The barrel-chested winger was a fans’ favourite at Castleford, where he was affectionately known as the “tank on the flank” for the devastating finishing power that brought him 63 tries in 62 appearances.
But his career was thrown into jeopardy towards the end of last season when reports emerged of an affair with the partner of a teammate.
Carney’s stay at the Jungle became untenable and, after weeks of uncertainty, he was thrown a lifeline by former Australia Test coach Tim Sheens at Salford, with whom he has signed a season-long loan deal for 2016.
The 27-year-old knows he has a reputation to mend but is preparing for a difficult reunion with his old Tigers team-mates when the Red Devils visit the Jungle for a Super League round five game on Sunday, March 13.
“I know the reception I’m going to get at Cas isn’t going to be a good one but that’s my own undoing,” he told PA Sport. “That’s no one’s fault. I’ve just got to do my job and get on with it.”
Carney was involved in lengthy talks during his internal suspension at Castleford over the four years remaining on his contract and he briefly contemplated the prospect of returning to Australia.
“I did, but Super League suits me and obviously I have a contract that I’ve got to fulfil,” said Carney, who has two children, the second of which was born just two months ago.
“It’s a short life in rugby league and you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family and your kids.
“What’s happened has happened; it’s my fault entirely and I don’t hate anyone for that. I don’t carry any hatred towards anyone. I did the wrong thing and I hold my hands up.
“But when it comes down to it, I’m not going to walk away from my contract. Everyone that I talked to has shaken their head at that but I’ve made that decision.
“A lot of people are going to go against me but I’m in it to do what’s best for me and my family. That’s a big part of me. I want my kids to say ‘I’m proud of my dad’.”
In theory, Carney is due to return to Castleford at the end of the season to see out the rest of the five-year deal he signed in 2014 but that prospect appears remote.
“That’s something I’ll have to address down the line,” he said.
“My main focus is to get this six or seven months out of the road, get down to what I do best. That other stuff will take care of itself, it goes with how I perform out on the field.”