ACT Brumbies prop Les Leuluaialii-Makin could see his Super Rugby dreams slipping away as grabbed on to a 10-kilogram weight and sank to the bottom of a pool.
Injured, frustrated and on a one-year deal, Leuluaialii-Makin spent more time under water than he did on the rugby field in what was supposed to be his debut season.
The Queanbeyan junior feared his immediate rugby ambitions were gone, and he was contemplating going back to lifting pianos as a removalist next year.
Despite a foot injury that shattered his hopes this year, Leulia'iali'i-Makin says his first-year disaster has instilled a mental resilience to chase his first cap.
To bounce back from the devastating foot injury, Leuluaialii-Makin was forced to carry a weight along the bottom of the pool, and he says he wants to repay the Brumbies' faith after signing a new two-year deal.
"I'm not a big swimmer either, so it was a bit different for me to have to carry a 10-kilogram weight up and down a pool under water, coming up for breath every now and then," Leuluaialii-Makin said.
"I would have been grateful for anything from the Brumbies given I didn't play at all this year.
"They showed faith in me. I guess I've got to put my head down to show the team and club who I am.
"It did cross my mind [that I go back to work as a removalist]. I was ready to take whatever it was. I was just grateful to have a chance. I would have been disappointed, but I was ready for anything."
Leuluaialii-Makin was on an extended player squad deal this year, which means he trains full-time with the Brumbies but is outside the top squad.
The 112 kilogram former Australian under-20s front-rower was to play his first Super Rugby game against the Melbourne Rebels in February.
But just days after being told to prepare to play in the round-three clash, he suffered the lisfranc injury in his foot and he spent the rest of the season on the sideline.
The injury didn't stop the Brumbies showing faith in his development and they offered him an upgraded contract for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
"I had to get it right before I got back," Leuluaialii-Makin said. "It's pretty crucial for a prop. You've got to look after your feet as a prop.
"I had six weeks on crutches and three months away from everything ... It was good in a way. I'm more in shape now and mentally strong.
"It was definitely tough for me. I was a bit down and I was in a hard spot. But the boys kept my spirits up and that has helped in the long run. If it wasn't for them, I didn't know how long I would have been in that hole."
Leuluaialii-Makin faces a major challenge to get game time this year because Ben Alexander and Scott Sio are expected to take the front-row starting spots.
That leaves Leuluaialii-Makin to fight it out with Ruan Smith, Allan Alaalatoa and Albert Anae for spots on the bench.
The biggest weapon Leuluaialii-Makin has is his ability to play at either loose-head or tight-head prop, as well as hooker.
"The injury has probably helped my nerves a bit for when I do get a chance because I've been through a year of it," he said.
"I'm fitter than what I was last year. I pretty much did everything under the sun in recovery. We started in the gym to get strength back and then did things I'd never done before in the pool, then rowing and on a bike, everything.
"It's not how I imagined my first Super Rugby year to go, but I'm just lucky the coaches saw potential and hopefully I can show what I've got."