Queanbeyan Blues player Tyler Stevens charges forward to score during the match at Phillip Oval. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
DEEP down, Queanbeyan Blues' rugby union recruit Tyler Stevens knew he needed a change.
Forced to sit out last year with a groin injury, he watched in envy as schoolmates Robbie Coleman and Colby Faingaa forged Super Rugby careers with ACT Brumbies.
But having returned to his first love of rugby league this season, he's got his mojo back.
The speedy centre has been one of the factors behind the Blues' charge to Sunday's Canberra Raiders Cup grand final against Queanbeyan Kangaroos.
He rediscovered his football passion, scoring 20 tries in 14 games to be the competition's leading try-scorer. Now he's looking to make up for lost time on his old St Edmund's College friends.
''I was so happy for those guys [Faingaa and Coleman], but it's hard to see my friends succeed while I was getting setback after setback,'' he said.
''My best friends like Robbie and Colby were going above me and getting signed, and I wasn't. I wasn't enjoying myself but league has brought that back, I'm loving being in a successful team.''
Stevens is one of three union converts in the Blues squad, alongside forward Aaron McInnes and winger Craig Wilkinson, the league's top points-scorer this season. Stevens won a rugby union premiership with Queanbeyan Whites in 2010, while older brother Kane helped Queanbeyan Tigers to last year's NEAFL Eastern title.
He has an opportunity to seal the family three-code trifecta, and the Blues will be hot favourites after losing just twice all season.
Stevens, 23, played AFL and league growing up, but missed a spot in the Canberra Raiders under-16 Harold Matthews side.
He was soon offered a place in rugby union's national talent squad and the Brumbies academy, and went on to play for the Australian Schoolboys.
''It didn't work out in league so I just said 'Stuff it, I'm going to take the rugby opportunity','' he said.
This season he's adapted to league like he never left. ''The extra space is the biggest thing I've found has worked well for me, not having to kick the ball away and you can run whenever you get the ball,'' he said.
''I spoke to [Queanbeyan Blues coach] Simon Woolford and said I needed a change. I got my groin right, and here we are.''
Stevens knows his age is against him, but hasn't given up hope of impressing the Raiders.
''I'd love to, that goal would never go away,'' he said. ''The best I can do is play well for my club.''