Whilst all of the spotlight and euphoria was around the imminent announcement of Todd Carney for NSW – there was another Sharks player, who was hiding in the shadows, using the game on the weekend as the stepping stone to rebuilding his NRL career and life.
That man, is Issac Gordon.
After serving a nine-match ban for domestic violence, Gordon was elevated to the Sharks first team, for their clash against the Storm, a game in which they won.
The off-field incident, which occurred in September last year, could have seen Gordon axed by the Sharks – but he took the guilty plea for the incident, and thus did not see first-grade again. Until now.
Undergoing counselling at least once a week, sometimes even twice a week, Gordon is doing his hardest to repay the faith to the club – praising the fans, the players and the organisation, for sticking by him.
It was Shane Flanagan who informed the 25-year old that he would be playing, and Gordon immediately told his parents that he was playing, so that they could make the trip down from their home in the bush.
“I was really worried heading out there, especially against the Storm who had been undefeated and with Billy Slater,” Gordon said.
“I was even more nervous when I bobbled the ball early. I thought to myself, ‘I’m in for a big day here’. But Jeremy Smith was good.
“And Todd Carney, who I had never played with before, surprised me heaps with the way he talked all the way through the game.
“Scoring the try boosted my confidence and I was all smiles after that. It felt like I had just completed a really long pre-season.”
With Gordon still not in full-peak condition, he said that that would improve over time, as he plays more game – and that his mental state would also improve, with the continued assistance of counselling.
“I’ve never talked about my problems before, but it’s been really good having a counsellor, and the Sharks have helped me out there,” Gordon said.
“I find it helps, just talking with people who don’t know you and don’t judge you. If I’m having a rough week or there’s something going on I might see the counsellor twice that week.”