CHRIS Fayers spent the 2020 NNNSW NPL season in limbo.
A contract dispute with Malaysian side Terengganu meant he was stuck on the sidelines watching as as his boyhood club Maitland went on a magical ride to the grand final.
Fayers wasn't getting paid by Terengganu after the Malaysian Super League season was suspended due to COVID-19.
He returned home, but Terengganu refused to provide an international clearance unless a club coughed up a transfer fee.
Fayers went to Football Australia for assistance but, in the end, he had to sit idle until the contract expired in November.
"I was in limbo for about six months," the 23-year-old said. "I went down to Sydney to train with an academy but I couldn't play. It was frustrating watching my mates every week and I'm ready to go but can't contribute to anything.
"That is why this year I am busting to go. I want to show everyone what I can do."
Fayers played at right back in the Magpies' 1-0 triumph over Edgeworth in the season opener.
"When Chris first got here we looked at playing him in midfield," Maitland coach Mick Bolch said. "With Tom Davies leaving last year, Chris has really good engines and gets up and down the line all day. He and our left fullback Adam Blunden - a guy we got up from the Central Coast - give us a lot of go forward.
"The win over Edgey was built on defence. We pressed and pressed them and won a fair bit of turnover."
The Magpies boast a young squad apart from in defence. Carl Thornton and Zach Thomas are in the centre of the back four. Matt Swan screens in front of them.
"It is a good platform to launch from," Bolch said.
Being one of the more experienced players is new for Fayers.
"We have a lot of quality young boys who haven't had a chance until now," he said. "It is great to be able to come in and lead the way a bit."
Despite the abrupt end and subsequent dramas, Fayers has not ruled out a return to Malaysia.
"I went over in December 2020 and was on trial for three months," he said. "I went to six or seven second division clubs and couldn't get a look in.
"Then I went to a Super League club, Terengganu, and they liked the way I played. There was an injury at the time when I was trialing - one of their Asian slot players - and I was able to take that. That's football, it's being in the right place at right time.
"I played [former Newcastle Jet] Taylor Regan in pre-season when he was at Selangor. The season hadn't started when COVID struck. There was a national lockdown for four weeks. If don't play, you don't get paid. I decided to come home in April.
"It has been a steep learning curve. I take it all as a good thing. I have that experience now."
"I am studying physiotherapy at Newcastle Uni and have two years to go. Once I finish that and I have a degree in my hands. There are aspirations to go back and play."