A reformed Russell Packer has vowed to make amends to his family for the heartache his jailing put them through and not to waste his second chance at the NRL.
The 26-year-old will take a giant step towards reviving his rugby league career on Saturday night when he runs out for St George Illawarra in their pre-season trial against Queensland Cup side Wynnum-Manly.
Two years after he was convicted and sentenced to a year’s jail for assault, Packer has the potential to be one of the redemption stories of the 2016 season.
The two-time New Zealand Test prop says he’s a changed man, determined not to put a foot wrong after being thrown a lifeline by the Dragons.
As well as playing for feeder side the Illawarra Cutters in 2015, Packer has enrolled in a university business degree and given back to the community through charity work, including for the Illawarra Disability Trust.
Fronting a media conference on Monday, Packer said a three-week stint in solitary confinement forced him to confront some truths about his life.
“It was a very reflective time. Being confined to an area of that size allows for a lot of reflection,” Packer said.
“That’s part of the rehabilitation – to get in there and think about how you want to live your life and whether you want to continue to do it and it’s about accepting the consequences of our actions.”
Determined to grasp his second chance, he says he’s committed to making amends to his partner, Lara, daughter Madison and son Harley.
“When you go through really hard times, the people closest to you suffer as well,” Packer said.
“I owe a lot to my partner, my children and all my extended family, and that’s why I choose to live the way I do now, make good decisions and be a good example for my children.”
McGregor said Packer could hardly have set a better example since arriving and he was firmly in the frame to be in the side’s top 17 this year.
“People forget he’s quite knowledgeable, people forget he was dux of his school. When you give him a task he goes to it,” McGregor said.
“That’s important because as a coach you need smart players out there.”