Canberra Raiders junior Joe Picker says he would still feel part of South Sydney's success if they are to end their premiership drought, even if he doesn't get to play in the finals.
Picker has played 11 NRL games with the Rabbitohs this season, since leaving the Raiders, and will be sitting in the stands on Friday night when South Sydney play defending premiers the Roosters to try and qualify for their first grand final in 43 years.
But late last year, Picker was sitting on a beach honeymooning in Hawaii, thinking his NRL career was over. Shattered when offloaded by Canberra after 110 NRL games, Picker was resigned to playing bush football with his younger brothers Mick and Ben at Goulburn Bulldogs.
"I'd pretty much hung them up, to be honest with you," Picker said. "I went to Hawaii with my missus on our honeymoon and got a message off my manager over there, saying, 'Ring me as soon as you get back.'
"It's a pretty easy decision really [to join the Rabbitohs], to play with one of the best teams in the comp. It's pretty crazy to think I was done, and now we're a few days off hopefully being in a grand final.
"Even though I'm not playing, it's still special. If we get through it's going to be awesome next week and something I thought would have been a pipe dream last year."
"You do miss out in a big way not playing, but you're still involved and they don't walk around thinking there's only 17 blokes here ... it's very much a whole squad effort. When I signed I didn't think too much about grand finals or playing with Greg [Inglis] and Sam [Burgess], it was more: I've got to give it one more shot."
With Ben Te'o and Burgess both heading to European rugby next year, back-row spots could be open at Souths next year. Picker is off contract at the end of this year and will sit down with Souths coach Michael Maguire✓ once the season is over.
Picker's wife Naomi is expecting their first child in January, making it unlikely the 26-year-old would sign with an English Super League club.
"I'm letting Madge [Maguire] do his thing and we'll talk after, we're in no hurry," Picker said. "I just need to have a sit-down with him. It won't be quite as jam-packed in the forwards here next year, but I have to work out what's best for my young family, too.