The last time Danny Wicks appeared in front of a large crowd in Newcastle was when a packed courtroom saw him sentenced to three years for drug trafficking in 2011.
On Sunday the Parramatta prop starred against his former club, helping the team to a 28-22 win and the 28-year-old admitted he was very nervous about facing the club that were forced to sack him following his incarceration.
Weighing 20kg less than when he last played in the NRL, Wicks has been in fine form for the Eels this year but he admitted it had been a difficult week.
“It was a fair build-up for me personally because I did the wrong thing in the past,” Wicks said.
“I was looking forward to it, but at the same time I wasn’t looking forward to it.
“I was expecting a bit of a backlash from the crowd, but I didn’t really hear anything much, I think I may have even got a clap.”
Wicks said there were no comments made on the field towards him from the other players and said he had nothing but respect for the club whose name he dragged through the mud when charges were first laid in 2010.
“There was no drama or sledging at all,” Wicks said.
“I don’t keep in contact with any of the players here any more. I obviously have to keep my distance because of my actions all those years ago.
“But there is no ill feeling at all.”
Wicks made the last tackle of the game that sealed a gutsy win for his side, who awarded him a new contract last week, just six games into his return season.
He said he was blown away by the faith shown to him by the club and said his appreciation of the sport is greater than he ever had earlier in his career.
“This is my second chance and my last,” he said.
“I’ve got a family I am paying for and all the boys there in that team. It’s not so much a point to prove but I want to just play my best for Brad and Parramatta.
“I was over the moon they took the second year option, they are not going to regret it, I will make sure of it.”