Dragons prop Shannon Wakeman knows enough about life on the NRL fringes to recognise an opportunity when he sees it.
The Illawarra Cutters' longest serving player has been a part-timer, a full-timer and part-timer again and knows that his latest shot at that elusive NRL berth - after recently signing a one-year deal with the Dragons - is the best of the lot.
It follows his best ever season in the NSW Cup that saw the 25-year-old earn the Cutters player of the year award and land a full-time deal with the Dragons all after nearly giving the game away a year ago.
"Last year, I was honestly going to quit," Wakeman said.
"I hurt my neck really bad and lost a lot of confidence. I was going into tackles half-hearted and I just wasn't able to do my job properly.
"It was completely mental. My neck came back fine but I just wasn't prepared for the mental battle. I didn't really want to risk that again. I got talked into playing one more season and it's lucky I did because I had a good year."
After leading the Cutters to a preliminary final in the NSW Cup, Wakeman said that once-lost confidence has returned and has him poised to deliver on the potential he showed as a junior with the club.
"I definitely think I'm better prepared this time, I'm older so I've got a bit more experience now," he said.
"I don't know if it's my last chance but it's definitely my best chance to play first grade.
"I'm a confidence-type player and I had a few setbacks with injury and had a few surgeries.
"They've been huge setbacks but last year, I really showed what I can do and feel like I'm ready to go. With Mary [Dragons coach Paul McGregor], he's all about being fair and if you put in the hard work, he'll reward you.
"I've known him since I was young and he's known me for a while so I've got a really good relationship with Mary.
"I think having a full preseason under him I can go really well and hopefully play some games in first grade."
He may not be the biggest name to sign on with the Dragons this season but Wakeman has already earned cult status in Wollongong after an amazing 50-metre solo try in the Cutters semi-final victory over the Warriors went viral, the effort viewed more than 6000 times on YouTube.