Russell Packer's redemption story just keeps on getting better - and he's not done yet
There are no shortage of redemption stories in rugby league. It's a sport that prides itself on giving second chances, at times to its detriment.
But while some, such as Todd Carney and Ben Barba, failed to heed repeated warnings, not so Russell Packer.
The reformed Kiwi prop has not put a foot wrong with the Dragons since serving a 12-month prison sentence for a brutal, alcohol fuelled assault in Sydney, Australia four years ago. In fact, his is a tale that keeps on getting better.
The 27-year-old former Warrior capped a phenomenal few weeks on Friday with another barnstorming display as the Dragons overpowered his former club in Hamilton.
Three days earlier Packer inked a lucrative four-year deal with the Wests Tigers, which came not long after breaking a six-year hiatus from the Kiwis in the Anzac test.
But having helped transform the Dragons into surprise top-four contenders, Packer is determined to add one last positive chapter before starting the next phase of his career .
"It was good to get the contract stuff out of the way," he said.
"Every player in the NRL, when you're contract comes up you've got to look around and see what you can do and I'm very happy to secure a contract at the Tigers for next year. But in saying that, that's next year and we've got a good team here in 2017 and hopefully we can do something special."
At one stage, Packer seemed destined for a lengthy career at the Warriors.
Indeed, the 2017 version of Packer is exactly what the club needs - a big body in the middle, who regularly dents the line and provides quick play-the balls. But it took a pretty hard lesson for him to realise his potential.
Packer was released from jail at the start of 2015, but his rehabilitation did not happen overnight.
He signed with the Dragons that year and spent the entire season playing for their feeder side, Illawarra Cutters, before the NRL registered his contract.
The Foxton-born forward completely overhauled his lifestyle, including giving up alcohol, while he is also studying a commerce degree and recently received a Dean's Award for outstanding results at the University of Wollongong.
To see how far he has come you only have to look at the comments this week from Wests Tigers coach Ivan Clearly, who handed Packer his start in first grade at the Warriors.
Cleary believes he is just the player to help fix the Tigers' off-field culture.
And Packer says his experience has changed his outlook on football.
"I'm a bit older too," he added. "I had a couple of years out of the game and you get a different perspective on life when you go through some difficult times.
"I probably approach my game a little bit different now and just enjoy it, you never know what's around the corner so you've got to make the most of every week."
This month's Anzac test was not one to remember for Kiwi fans but Packer, quite understandably, cherished every moment.
A fiercely proud New Zealander, Packer's return to the back and white jersey was made all the more special by having his two kids in the stands in Canberra.
All going well, they should have plenty more chances to watch dad represent their country at the World Cup at the end end of the year.
Packer, though, is taking nothing for granted.
"I've had a lot of time to reflect, it was an absolute honour and privilege to be able to represent our country again," he said.
"Obviously the World Cup is all in the back of our heads but football such a long game and you never know what's around the corner so you've just got to show up every week. If you're playing well and you get picked it's always a privilege."