Brock Lamb has turned his back on a contract with the Parramatta Eeels to return home to the Maitland Pickers and playing with his mates.
Lamb and Pickers president Frank Lawler put pen to paper before the former Newcastle Knight, Sydney Rooster, London Bronco and Eels playmaker joined his teammates for Thursday night training at the Maitland Sportsground.
Carrying a huge smile and a couple more kilos than he would strictly like, Lamb, 23 later this month, is super keen to get into the "real world".
"I just want to get into a real life and start my own stuff," Lamb said before joining training on Thursday.
"I've done the NRL dream. I always wanted to just play a few game and I did that. Maybe in a few years I might go back.
"I played about 40 odd games in the NRL and I'm stoked about that, I didn't think I'd even get one.
"I've ticked the box there and now I get to start another career and do some other exciting things in my life. Who knows where I'm going to be in the next few years?"
Lamb said he had struggled mentally over the past few seasons and felt he needed to make the break from full-time footy
"I just thought it was time to come home and get into the real world," he said.
"I was struggling a bit mentally. I had some things going in my mind that I'd never felt before. I was all over the shop and once I came home I relieved myself of most of that pressure.
"It's probably the happiest I've been in the last few years. I'm really enjoying life, it's not just for footy.
"Footy is all I've done since I was about 13, but there's a lot more out there than just football.
"I'm grateful for having that chance, but in the end I wasn't me. I was sort of acting like someone else. I guess I was sort of losing my mind you could say just with everything, not just footy pressure, but life pressure.
"Being away from home, moving places all the time - Newcastle, Roosters, London, Parra I was all over the shop moving ... it's pretty full on, pretty hectic.
"It's good to be home and just cruising.
"A lot of people will have their own opinion and that's fair enough. But they haven't been in my shoes and understood how it feels.
"Obviously it's good to come back and play footy here, but at the end of the day I've come back to live life and be around family and friends."
Lamb said he was loving making decisions outside of the confines of the regimented life of football.
"My partner Charlotte and I are pretty stoked at the moment, we're pretty happy," he said.
"We're starting to get in the real world and finding out what life is about. As a football player you just rock up and train.
"At the moment I'm doing a trial with an electrician and see how it goes. But to be honest I don't really know as all I've done is footy since I was 13.
"I got asked the other day by someone 'what are you into'. I had to say 'I have no idea, I've kicked footballs since I was 13'."
Lawler said Lamb had never been considered in the club's recruitment plans for 2020, but everyone was thrilled to have him back home.
"It's a surprise. Obviously we thought Lamby would be playing NRL somewhere. He got the gig at Parramatta and then we got the call saying he wanted to come back here," Lawler said.
"It's taken plenty of time since then to him signing, but we wanted to give him time to sort things out himself. We didn't want to put any pressure on him to be back here.
"We're glad he has done it in his own time."
Lawler said he expected more cries of Maitland trying to buy a premiership after the club's successful recruiting in the off-season.
"I can assure everyone that Brock is not getting the money here he would at Parramatta or elsewhere, so he needs a career to take care of things.
"The main thing he wanted was a job. He wanted to start a job which would lead to a career after footy. Through Andrew Hughes at A-Plus Contracting we've managed to get him an apprenticeship with an electrician.
"He is starting to get to find out what it's like. He was stressing about not getting to training on Tuesday night.
"I said mate 'don't worry about it, you've got to do work first, if you get caught up at work it comes first, that's part and parcel of it'."
Lamb signed a two-year deal with the Eels in early December. It followed three seasons in the Knights senior ranks, where he played 32 NRL games, and a stint with the Sydney Roosters in 2019.
After just one appearance off the bench for the Roosters, Lamb was released mid-year to join English Super League club London Broncos, who were relegated at the end of last season.
He signed a modest development contract with the Eels for 2020 but has a guaranteed top 30 spot for 2021.
Maitland has been one of the big movers in the local player market during the off-season after enticing premiership-winning coach Matt Lantry to the club at the end of last season .
They signed Wests grand final trio Alex Langbridge, Pat Mata'utia and Chad O'Donnell as well as Langbridge's brother Daniel and Kurri's Jarom Haines prior to Christmas.
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