TAUTAU Moga has emerged from a dark place with a smile on his face and renewed self-belief.
This time last year, the towering Newcastle Knights centre was dealing with angst on and off the field.
After the fourth knee reconstruction of his career, he was racing the clock to prove his fitness for round one of the 2019 season. In addition, he had a looming court appearance hanging over his head after a much-publicised incident involving a taxi driver.
Twelve months on, such memories are fading fast.
He now has full confidence his rebuilt knee will withstand the rigours of NRL football, and is relishing the chance to get a full pre-season under his belt, rather than a summer disrupted by rehabilitation and recovery.
And his squeaky-clean conduct since the Boxing Day indiscretion outside King Street Hotel would suggest he learned a lesson and has no intention of making the same mistake twice.
Now Moga can approach his third season in Newcastle's colours with a clear mind, and perhaps Knights fans will finally get to see the best of him.
After a 15-month hiatus, the Samoan international returned to play in six NRL games last year and believes the confidence he gained from that will be priceless.
"I feel loads better," he said. "Not only physically, but mentally as well.
"Just not having to worry about the knee. Obviously when you first come back, it's in the back of your mind, but now that's gone ... it's close to 100 per cent and feels good."
Moga said his goal last year was simply to "play as much footy as I could".
"It was just a blessing to be back out there," he said. "Then my next goal was to play some first grade before the season finished. Now I want more of it."
Moga said recovering from major knee surgery was easier the fourth time around.
"I knew what I was up against," he said. I'd been down that road before.
"I knew what I had to do to get back into playing footy ... it tested me at times, but I knew that if I put in the work, everything would fall into place."
Moga faces a dog-eat-dog battle with the likes of Bradman Best, Hymel Hunt and new signings Gehamat Shibasaki and Enari Tuala for a berth in Newcastle's three-quarter line.
"That's a good thing," he said.
"We're all competing for our spots, and those young fellas keep us on our toes. I like it."
If Moga can recapture the form he showed with Brisbane in 2017, when he scored nine tries in 27 games, new coach Adam O'Brien will find it hard not to pick him.
More renowned as a left-side centre, Moga said he would have no qualms about switching to the opposite edge if that was O'Brien's preference.
"I can play both sides," he said. "Everyone thinks it's a massive difference, but when I was younger I used to train both sides, so I'm used to both."
Off contract at the end of this season, and with a young family to consider, the 26-year-old has no desire to start looking for a fifth NRL club.
"I would love to stay," he said. "So it's up to me to show Adam that I'm willing to work hard and go from there."
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