Canterbury rake Craig Garvey has paid tribute to former coach Paul McGregor for helping him salvage a rugby league career that was almost over before it began at St George Illawarra.
Two years ago Garvey was sentenced to 150 hours of community service and stood down from the Dragons after being found guilty of assaulting a man at an Illawarra pub.
But McGregor, who took over as head coach that year, eventually forgave Garvey and even handed him seven games off the bench late last year.
On Monday, Garvey will face off against his former club for the first time when he comes off the bench for Michael Lichaa, but he hasn’t forgotten the second chance afforded to him by his old coach.
“I let him down when I got into trouble,” Garvey told AAP.
“I was just grateful that he took me back for that season and he got me a fair few games under him coming off that bad season I had. I’m thankful to him giving me an opportunity to show what I got on TV.
“He gave me a good opportunity to get picked up by another club and here I am today.”
Garvey still had one year remaining in the Red V but was grateful McGregor was honest enough to tell him there wouldn’t be much chance of him playing behind Mitch Rein in Wollongong.
He was after a fresh start as well.
“I’d been there for a long time and then all that drama happened and then it just felt like I was stuck. I wasn’t moving forward with my career,” he said.
“That drama made me grow up a lot. I had to change things in my life. It wasn’t just that fight.
“My whole lifestyle was out of order, I was rocking up to training late or right on time. It just changed my perception of rugby league and how much I love it.”
Since Bulldogs coach Des Hasler moved to Belmore in 2012, he has regularly gone with an 80-minute rake.
However, a knee injury to first-choice No.9 Michael Lichaa has forced him to include Garvey on the bench, and the 23-year-old is keen to make the most of the chances he gets.
“I haven’t got as many minutes as I’d like but any opportunity to play first grade is good for me,” he said.
“I’m just trying to rack up as many games as I get while I’m here and learn as much as I can under Dessie. It’s been a good ride so far.”