New Sea Eagles recruit Curtis Sironen admits he wasn't putting in the same level of desperation at former club Wests Tigers once he got complacent in first grade – costing himself a top-grade spot – and says a move to Manly is exactly what he needed to get that hunger back.
Sironen is the son of Balmain legend Paul Sironen – a towering back-rower, World Cup winner, NSW Blues great and veteran of 247 first grade games for the Tigers along with 23 Tests and 14 State of Origins.
Sironen Sr was always going to cast a long shadow as his sons looked to forge their own paths in the NRL and while Curtis's younger brother Bailey is still at Wests Tigers, 2016 proved to him it was time he left the only club he'd ever known.
"Last year I was in reserve grade sort of just making excuses for myself," Sironen said.
"I definitely questioned my ability, whether I am good enough. Confidence is massive and if I'm questioning whether I'm good enough to go at it with the big boys, I wasn't feeling too crash hot and it showed how I was playing in those reserve grade games as well.
"It's not the sort of footy player I know I can be and now I have a few people to prove wrong."
Sironen knew he needed a fresh start and following a meeting with Manly coach Trent Barrett things progressed quickly.
"It happened pretty fast to be honest. It was really easy for me, I came in, met everyone and was straight into it first day of pre-season."
Sironen still had two years to run on his Tigers contract and thanks the club for "coming to the party" when the transfer to Manly became a genuine possibility.
"I don't have any regrets, maybe only that when I first cracked it I was working that hard to earn a spot that I maybe wasn't doing it as much anymore," he said.
"I was a bit disappointed how it finished to be honest but I don't look back now, I'm happy to be here and I'm just going to try and play good footy for Manly."
Sironen said he knew he wasn't improving as a player at his old club, and he takes responsibility for that rather than laying it on the club where he was eventually demoted to reserve grade after Round 10 last year.
"I take responsibility for a lot of those things, complacency and all that stuff, but [I wanted] the chance to play first grade here and challenge myself again and get that hunger back and really enjoy coming to training and playing, more so than it being a chore," he said.
"Just having fun again is one of the biggest things. There was a couple of games last year when I was going to reserve grade games when I didn't even want to play and I thought to myself 'there's something wrong here, this isn't the feeling I've had since I was a little boy'.
"Just getting that hunger back, just as a person I'm so much more relaxed and happier now and hopefully it shows with how I perform this year."
The early signs are certainly good; Sironen powered over for three tries in the Auckland Nines as he helped the Sea Eagles surprise plenty by progressing from their dangerous group ahead of local favourites the Warriors, before a narrow quarter-final loss to eventual runners-up Penrith. He also performed strongly in a long stint in his team's 22-16 trial win over Souths.
"I run heavy on confidence so I was probably sapped of a bit of that the last couple of years through injury and form," he said.
"I've been pretty grateful they've given me a crack in a couple of trials and I've performed pretty solid but it doesn't really matter if you don't do it when it counts.
"I've just got to keep working hard, I can't get comfortable with how I'm going or anything like that and I don't think here at Manly they're going to let me so it's good."
This article first appeared on NRL.com