Bailey Simonsson's arrival at the Canberra Raiders was a nerve-wracking time - his future was up in the air and he doubted whether he could succeed.
Now he's preparing for the biggest game in the Green Machine's history, fresh off the back of re-signing until the end of 2023.
Simonsson was named as the utility on the bench to face the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a preliminary final at Canberra Stadium on Friday night.
In the space of less than 12 months he's gone from a train-and-trial contract slogging it out on the Raiders' training track with no guarantees he'd be there beyond Christmas to playing in front of a sold-out crowd of 28,000 and his future sorted.
Having impressed enough to earn himself a two-year contract, Simonsson still wasn't sure he'd make his NRL debut.
Now the former All Blacks sevens player has 19 games and eight tries under his belt and a three-year extension in his pocket.
"It's crazy. It's what I was striving for and what I was hoping to achieve, but I guess you're never really sure what is going to happen," Simonsson said.
"I came to have a go without anything secured, so it was obviously a nerve-wracking time and there were times when I doubted whether I would be able to succeed.
"At the end of the day you've got to put in your best effort and fortunately enough it has paid off and it worked out well."
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But his extension does further cloud Raiders winger Jordan Rapana's future in Canberra, with the New Zealand international looking increasingly likely to switch to Japanese rugby union.
Rapana's off-contract and has been linked to the Panasonic Wild Knights.
Ironically, Simonsson credited Rapana with helping with his development.
"There's a few boys I have spoken to throughout the year, boys in my position like 'Rapa' and BJ [Leilua]," he said.
"They're pretty easy going boys, they just say to back yourself out there. They've been good for me.
"The main thing has been the coaching staff, I can't praise them enough for what they have done for me in my short time here."
The Raiders have offered halfback Sam Williams a new one-year deal, but he's exploring his options - which includes several English Super League clubs.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have sent out an SOS for homes to take in their under-18 and under-20 players from regional areas.
As part of their development programs, they bring players in from places like the Riverina, Young and Batemans Bay and need Canberra homes to billet them in next year.
"We need accomodation for them ... the Raiders depend on the community for that," Mulholland said.
- Anyone interested can contact Raiders welfare manager David Thom on 0418 485 032.
NRL PRELIMINARY FINAL
Friday: Canberra Raiders v South Sydney at Canberra Stadium, 7.50pm.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine. Interchange: 14. Bailey Simonsson, 15. Emre Guler, 16. Corey Horsburgh, 17. Dunamis Lui. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Ryan Sutton, 20. Siliva Havili, 21. Sebastian Kris.
Rabbitohs squad: 1. Adam Doueihi, 2. Alex Johnston, 3. James Roberts, 4. Dane Gagai, 5. Campbell Graham, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Thomas Burgess, 9. Damien Cook, 10. Liam Knight, 11. John Sutton, 12. Sam Burgess (c), 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. George Burgess, 15. Junior Tatola, 16. Ethan Lowe, 17. Mark Nicholls. Reserves: 18. Jaydn Su'A, 19. Corey Allan, 20. Dean Britt, 21. Mawene Hiroti.