Dene Halatau’s impending 150th match for the Wests Tigers is a milestone he seemed unlikely to get to.
Halatau will become the 10th most capped player for the joint venture club when he runs outs against NRL ladder leaders Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
And while it will be a moment to savour, the 32-year-old revealed he almost hung up the boots during an ill-fated stint at Canterbury from 2010-13 during which he tore the medial ligament in his left knee six times.
He underwent surgery three times, including two knee reconstruction, and missed 33 games during his four-year stint at Belmore.
He was frustrated at not being able to establish himself at the Bulldogs and eventually moved back to Concord – where he started his career – with a fresh outlook.
He says he emerged from his trials a better person and armed with a realisation that any of life’s hurdles can be overcome with hard work.
“I got injured when I first went to the Bulldogs,” he said.
“I had three operations in the course of two years and I was getting frustrated.
“I went to a new club and I was trying to establish myself and I didn’t get started. I didn’t take that opportunity very well.
“It was a difficult period and my wife will tell you I was a bit of a pain to be around while I was injured.”
Halatau has never been a marquee name in any squad which he’s been a part of yet he’s forged a career most players would envy.
He has played almost every position on the field, filled the bench utility role for much of his career, and his teammates would describe him as the quintessential clubman.
He will this weekend equal Ben Galea as No.10 on the Wests Tigers’ list of most club games, having played another 69 with the Bulldogs.
This year will be his 13th in top grade. He’s played 15 Tests for New Zealand and was lock in the Tigers’ 2005 grand final win.
However it all nearly came crashing down prematurely earlier in the decade when he says he felt like quitting “a few times”.
“I wasn’t signed as a marquee player (at Canterbury) or anything,” he said.
“I was going there for an opportunity to improve myself and that didn’t happen that first year.
“It was difficult but there’s a process and a way to get through those (tough times).”
* Born: 27/01/1983 in Invercargill, New Zealand
* Junior club: Merryland Rams/North Ryde Hawks
* NRL debut: For Wests Tigers v Manly, Leichhardt Oval, round 13, 2003.
* Playing career: Wests Tigers (2003-09), Canterbury (2010-13), Wests Tigers (2013-present)
* Rep Honours: 15 games for New Zealand (2004-09)