There's been plenty of difficult moments for Kotoni Staggs to deal with in the past nine months.
The pain and frustration around a serious ACL injury is one thing, but a number of off-field incidents and headlines for all the wrong reasons also led to what he describes as "hard and pretty emotional" discussions with family and friends.
But this weekend the Wellington Cowboys junior will make his long-awaited return and he's determined to give the Brisbane Broncos fans and those closest to him something to cheer about.
The battling Broncos, who are last on the NRL ladder, take on the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday and Staggs will line up at centre in his first match since September of last year.
"I just can't wait to get out there," Staggs said.
The former Group 11 star admitted his nerves this week have been worse than they were in the build-up to his NRL debut in May of 2018.
Many fans are hoping Staggs, who was in State of Origin contention last season prior to his injury, can provide some joy in what has been another season of struggle for the Broncos.
But for the 22-year-old it's all about getting himself right again on and off the field.
Staggs was set to return last month but his wait was extended by a fortnight due to a two-match suspension and a $20,000 fine for a drunken incident at a Brisbane pub in April.
It came after he was fined $10,000 for using a homophobic slur towards a patron at a pub in Dubbo in February.
Staggs is all too aware he's now on his final chance and another indiscretion could ruin the lucrative four-year extension he signed with the Broncos earlier this year.
"When your mum rings you and says 'what's this that has come out?' and has those conversations on the phone it's pretty hard and pretty emotional," Staggs said to broncos.com.au this week about the off-field matters.
"There's going to be times when you've got to sacrifice things and there's going to be challenges but you've got to know how to take control and handle them and I think I've got the help I've needed and if I ever come into positions like that again I'll now how to handle it and move forward."
Staggs has said multiple times during his career he wants to be a role model, especially for youngsters in his home town of Wellington as he has shown what hard work and dedication can do.
Those who do remember Staggs from his days at the Cowboys would remember a junior who loved to take control of matches, dictating play from the middle of the field.
It's something likely to be seen at the Broncos as he harbours ambitions to shift from the centres to five-eighth, but it's not a move he'll be making just yet.
Staggs has spoken to coach Kevin Walters about moving to five-eighth next season partnering new recruit Adam Reynolds in the halves but for now it's about regaining match fitness and confidence.
"As a young kid growing up I played a lot of five-eighth ... but I'm focused on playing centre for the rest of the season," he said.
"For myself to play five-eighth I might need a pre-season under my belt for that.
"I'm not looking at the possibility of playing five-eighth this season so I just want to get out there and play a bit of football."
While some may question shifting a player as quick and as explosive with ball in hand like Staggs from centre, where he has starred for the Broncos, to the halves he feels he can provide a perfect foil for Reynolds from next season.
"I love getting my hands on the ball early and you get that at five-eighth," he said.
"You do have to pass it but we've got a good half coming next year who can organise and run them team and a team always needs a half who's a ball runner as well so that's what I'd bring to that position, my ball running."
The Broncos take on the Sharks from 2pm on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
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