James O'Connor could so easily have walked away from rugby.
There were moments when it seemed all it would take was one more wrong turn on his troublesome ankle he had been self-medicating, or one more off-field indiscretion for him to go.
To think, you know what, there's got to be something else out there for me. It would have been an ending unfit for one of Australian rugby's most prodigious talents.
Instead he finds himself about to wear the Wallabies' No. 10 jersey for the first time since the British and Irish Lions toured Australian soil seven years ago.
What stands before him is one of the toughest assignments of his international career - bringing about the downfall of the All Blacks in a Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington on Sunday.
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"He has had a different path than most," Wallabies captain Michael Hooper said.
"Hugely proud to be playing alongside him, and for him to get the opportunity to play No. 10 off the back of some really good footy over the past 18 months.
"There are changes he has made, I really enjoy his perspective on things and what he is bringing into the group - the maturity he is bringing into the group, and the hunger to perform in the No. 10 jersey, and having a flowing attack with him at the helm."
The hunger to perform at flyhalf is genuine. It's where O'Connor found a home for the Queensland Reds as he notched up the most linebreak assists  and try assists [eight] in Super Rugby AU.
So too is the 30-year-old's determination to help a new pack of Wallabies find their feet on the big stage. In the side's first camp in the Hunter Valley he roomed with a 20-year-old who had just stolen bragging rights in the domestic final.
Now Noah Lolesio is on the verge of a Test debut after being named to deputise for O'Connor from the bench, the man who "could have easily just turned the cold shoulder and brushed me" in camp.
Instead the pair "hardly ever talked about footy in our rooms, we just talked about life in general, and his life lessons".
"He leads really well through actions, James. He is very structured in how he sets himself up for a week, what's going to allow him to perform at his best, how he prepares his body," Hooper said.
"Having been around for quite a long time now, he has got a really good regime on how that looks for himself.
"When you are a young guy in a team just watching some of the more experienced players is some of the best leadership.
"Right now, the way he goes about preparing himself in detail, which at 10 is pretty crucial, but with his body and what he does to get his mind nice and clear, a lot goes into that which people don't see. Players, and me included, learn a lot from him in that aspect."
Game one: Sunday October 11 - New Zealand v Australia at Wellington, 2pm AEDT.
Wallabies squad: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5. Matt Philip, 6. Harry Wilson, 7. Michael Hooper (c), 8. Pete Samu, 9. Nic White, 10. James O'Connor, 11. Marika Koroibete, 12. Matt To'omua, 13. Hunter Paisami, 14. Filipo Daugunu, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Jordan Uelese, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Allan Alaalatoa, 19. Rob Simmons, 20. Rob Valetini, 21. Jake Gordon, 22. Noah Lolesio, 23. Reece Hodge.
All Blacks squad: 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Ofa Tuungafasi, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Sam Cane (c), 8. Ardie Savea, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Richie Mo'unga, 11. George Bridge, 12. Jack Goodhue, 13. Rieko Ioane, 14. Jordie Barrett, 15. Beauden Barrett. Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Karl Tu'inukuafe, 18. Nepo Laulala, 19. Tupou Vaa'i, 20. Hoskins Sotutu, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Anton Lienert-Brown, 23. Caleb Clarke.