Canberra comeback kid Jordan Rapana says he was just weeks away from giving up rugby league for a career in the police force before coach Ricky Stuart finally gave him a second shot in the NRL.
Rapana burst onto the NRL scene as an 18-year-old in 2008 when he scored five tries in five games for the Gold Coast Titans.
But the 23-year-old then embarked on a two-year Mormon mission in the UK before unsuccessfully attempting to win a Super Rugby contract with the Western Force and Brumbies.
The Raiders threw him a lifeline last year, but until Sunday’s comeback match against Parramatta in Darwin, Rapana hadn’t played a game in the NRL in six years.
He was close to giving up, too, revealing on Monday that a little over two weeks ago he had inquired with Raiders manager John Bonasera about how to enroll to become a police officer.
“The first thing JB said was: ‘mate, don’t give up yet, you’ve got a fair few games left in the season’,” Rapana said.
“I said I wasn’t giving up, I was more just wanting security for next year.
“But there were definitely days when I felt like giving it up (in the last few years).”
And who could blame him.
During his time in professional footy limbo, Rapana cut hair, pulled beers and waited tables – while impressing for Souths Logan in the Queensland Cup – just to make ends meet.
So two weeks ago he finally decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and uncles by working towards becoming a police officer.
But Bonasera was right. An injury to skipper Terry Campese meant regular fullback Anthony Milford moved to five-eighth, creating an opening for Rapana at fullback – and the Raiders re-signed him for another year last Thursday.
“When I look down the line in ten years’ time, it will be a bit of a story to tell, I was two to three weeks off literally giving up rugby. It’s awesome.”
While the Raiders went down 18-10 to the Eels, Rapana held his own, racking up 151 metres including eight tackle breaks.
He admits his first game back was under some pretty tough conditions.
“It was bloody hot up there in Darwin, real muggy, and the ball was slippery as heck,” Rapana said.
“And obviously Jarryd Hayne is a freak, one of the best players in the game.
“But apart from that, it went alright.”