Former Warrior Russell Packer has returned to the field for the first time since a brutal drunken incident that resulted in him spending a year behind bars.
The 25-year-old played for the Illawarra Dragons' feeder team yesterday in what he says is another step towards resurrecting his career in the NRL.
"I take everything as it comes, and I am really appreciative just to be playing for the cutters," says Packer. "So I'm pretty happy."
The Illawarra Cutters are not the NRL, but they are his first step back in that direction. Packer is under no illusions he has been given a remarkable second chance.
"Guess it is a good stepping stone," Packer says, "and you know everything that has happened, so it is a milestone. [I am] happy it is over with, and hopefully we can start winning next time I play."
Packer was jailed after punching a 22-year-old to the ground, stomping on his head and leaving him with two facial fractures.
He was drunk, but that was nothing new for Packer.
Despite being a talented football player and dux of his school in Foxton, Packer started drinking at 12 years old.
His former Warriors teammates have already passed on their best wishes.
"We caught up with [Packer] last night, so he came to the team hotel and we got to spend a bit of time with him," says Warriors captain Simon Mannering. "It was actually really good to see him and hear his voice. He had a first blowout yesterday and he said it was pretty tough, but he got through it. I am just so stoked to see him out with him family and able to play footy again.
"He made a mistake a while ago and he has definitely done his time for that, and it is great to see him back out on the field."
The father of two is unlikely to return to the NRL until next year, but wearing any jersey is better than wearing a prison uniform.
source: newshub archive