Canberra Raiders halfback Josh McCrone, left. Photo: Jay Cronan
Five years ago, completing an electrical apprenticeship was a higher priority for Josh McCrone than his NRL dream.
After two seasons to forget at Penrith, the Canberra halfback was at the crossroads.
He wasn't enjoying his football, and felt it was going nowhere.
McCrone has enjoyed a superb season in 2013. Photo: Melissa Adams
Walking his dog with partner Courtney, he then took a phone call that changed his life.
Canberra, where McCrone started his career before his ill-fated switch to Penrith, wanted him back.
McCrone will play his 100th NRL game against Melbourne at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
''When I left Penrith to come back here, I guess it was to finish my apprenticeship and maybe have one last crack at footy,'' McCrone said.
''I still had another year at Penrith, but I just wasn't enjoying my footy.
''If footy happened it would be good, but it was just about enjoying it again and lucky enough I've done that.
''I'd still be playing footy even if it was local, but it was more an opportunity to finish my apprenticeship and everything's worked out well.''
So well, his apprenticeship still isn't finished.
The 26-year-old hasn't missed a game since round six, 2010, and is a key figure in the seventh-placed Raiders' finals charge.
The stars aligned to bring McCrone back to the Raiders in 2009.
Star playmaker Todd Carney had been sacked late the previous season, and current coach David Furner was in his first year in charge.
''When my phone rang I told my manager straight away 'let's do it','' he said. ''At the time Courtney was still living here and it's closer to home [Temora].''
Fittingly McCrone plays his milestone match against his brother-in-law, Storm utility Ryan Hinchcliffe.
McCrone and Hinchcliffe both became fathers for the first time late last year.
''It's funny how things work out like that, he [Hinchcliffe] won't give me anything,'' McCrone said.
''There'll be lots of family there. One half will be purple and the other green.''
The clash against the defending premiers begins a horror run home for Canberra, its final six matches all against fellow finals contenders.
It's only August, but McCrone is viewing it as the start of a September campaign come early.
''I think our finals series starts now, this next six weeks are going to be massive for us,'' he said.
''Last year the intensity of that finals game against Souths [which Canberra lost 38-16] shocked me a little bit.
''This year when we make the finals, we'll have had six weeks of tough football. We'll be a lot better geared for it and ready to give it a decent shake.''
Midway through the season McCrone spent time at hooker to accommodate the NRL initiation of star rookie Anthony Milford.
Milford has since found a home at fullback, with McCrone resuming his halves partnership full time with Terry Campese.
He believes it's been a catalyst for the Raiders' current three-game winning streak.
''Once we settled on the spine it was always going to start happening for us,'' McCrone said.
''Getting that mix right at hooker and fullback and Campo playing five eighth, it was going to click eventually.''
Milford and McCrone have both been linked to a move to the Broncos next year, despite being contracted at Canberra for 2014.
But McCrone is going nowhere. He wants to repay the club that revived his career.
''The first I heard about it was in the paper, so I know as much as you do,'' McCrone said.
''There's nothing in it from my end.''