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In my shoes: Sandor Earl

I would give back all the games I’ve played and every try I’ve scored just to be able to start my career again here at Melbourne Storm.

This place is the dream for a player, you want to be part of a culture where you are playing for your coaches and trying to earn that respect.

This Club is amazing. It is definitely 10-fold on anything I’ve ever been part of. I am just excited to be here and am at that point now where I am just trying to work hard so that I can contribute.

It is well documented that I had a few years off but there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to come back and play football.

I was able to go away and grow up a little bit. It definitely put things into perspective.

It is a privilege to be an NRL player because there are a lot worse of things that you could be doing. When you see that other side like I did it is probably the only way you are going to get that realisation but when you do, you realise how good you’ve got it as a player.

After living in Thailand for a bit I came back to Melbourne in 2015 and had a conversation with my manager. We said that if I was going to see how good I can be and have one last crack at it, where is the place to do it?

The answer was simple: Melbourne Storm.

I reached out to Craig Bellamy personally, that is how I wanted to do it, to go straight to the source.

I actually wrote him a letter.

I thought I’d go a bit old school and just put my thoughts down on a piece of paper.  I told him my story, took him through my career, what I went through , what my intentions were and why I think he should give me an opportunity.

He got back to me and we organised to grab a coffee. Craig was really positive with everything and I was obviously lucky that he saw some potential and he was really quick to make his decision and give me a chance.

Craig having that faith in me is what you want. In my position you don’t need much, just a few people in key positons like Craig and Frank Ponissi to have the belief in you, it just sets the tone and gives you a lot of confidence and motivation.

That really spurred me on for the rest of 2017 when I was training by myself.

I rocked up to the Melbourne Storm in November for the start of pre-season training and had worked really hard to get to that point. I wanted to come to pre-season and not be too far behind in most areas.

Things were going well, I’d transitioned back into the football side and I was just hungry. That mental side was going to be the most powerful aspect of me coming back.

I was like a kid again, I was just so excited to do everything and be everywhere and was on track with something good.

Then it happened.

As much as I’ve come to terms with my injuring my ACL, it is still quite hard to believe the timing of it all.

At the time people weren’t tossing up ACL when I first did it. I was thinking ‘no way, surely not…’

Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I got the call from the doc and I was pretty devastated.

I can’t remember the last time I cried that much or got that upset. It was a wave of emotion but it was not about me.

I just felt bad for the Club. They’d given me this opportunity and I felt like I’d let them down.

The next few days were tough but what helped was that I was at the most motivated point in my life and my footy. Because of that it wasn’t easy to just sit there and feel sorry for myself.

The next day I was back at the Club. I was training in the gym, working on my upper body and getting the swelling down.

I was not over it at that point but I had been working hard, not just for those first three weeks of pre-season but for the whole year so I wanted to keep that ticking over otherwise I would have just gone mental sitting at home.

I had surgery a week later and that was when you come to terms with it.

You wake up every morning and you just can’t believe it, it just takes that 20-30 seconds to register but the quicker I faced my reality the quicker I could move on to the next stage.

So I started setting goals.

I am a bit obsessive. To start off I had to get extension in my knee, I had to get the swelling down so I dedicated my entire day to that.

Focusing on those challenges has gotten me to where I am now. I am proud to look back and know that the work I did initially has put me in a positon where I am doing things six weeks ahead of where most others would be.

So we are going on five months now and I am only two to three weeks away from returning to full training. I don’t have any days to waste, I have to tick every box.

I’d done my knee once before, when I was 17 however back then I had the world ahead of me and there was no panic stations because I had all the time in the world.

But now I am 28, I’ve had a couple of reconstructions on my shoulders and my knees, now  I feel like you are robbing me of time that I need. I can cop the injury, it sucks but I’ve had all these years off so I do not have time to give away anymore.

My life has always seemed to go through ups and downs. I talk about that cycle with people, every time something really bad has happened I have come out the other end and something really good has followed it.

Maybe I am due something good at the end of this so I am bloody excited.

I grew up in Woolloomooloo, east of Sydney with my mum and little brother.

Mum worked really hard to make sure I always had everything. She was a single mum, we didn’t drive or come from a well-off background, we lived in housing commission the first half of my life. It was a bit of a rough area.

When I was seven years old I used to catch a bus, a train and then another bus just to get to school in Randwick.

Because of that I was always pretty independent and pretty cluey from a young age. Mum just gave me the platform to give me the opportunity to be the best I could be. It wasn’t an easy road but hard work was what I built everything on.

You have to look at the positives of every situation.

As well as playing footy now I run the F45 gym in Little Collins St.

As a professional footy player when I was younger, I had a lot of down time, a lot of time to relax. Now it is good to have something solid away from football, I think it I really healthy, especially at a time like this.

My partner and I have set up a base in Melbourne now, we live just down the road from AAMI Park and footy is something I know I can do for a few more years to come. Now it is on me really to just make it work.

Ever since I’ve been at Melbourne Storm there has been so much support, it has been pretty overwhelming actually.

I come in every day and the physios and the coaches, they give you so much that my only opportunity to give back is to smash every session. Whether I’m on rehab, on the bike, running, that is my opportunity to give back to them because they give me so much of their time.

I don’t think anyone will understand the concept of how much respect and how massive it is internally within these walls to be a Melbourne Storm player and to get that jersey.

The reason I love this Club so much is that it is built on hard work and effort. I am extremely excited because I know what the potential is if I do a full pre-season.

To be able to contribute after all this and what the Club has done for me, that is my main focus right now.

Speaking with the performance staff, my surgeon, where I am at, it is reasonable the goal I’ve set which is eight months, Round 17, first week of July, I will be in a position to start playing.

The day I come back I am not coming back for a warm up game, I am coming to hit the ground running and if there is an opportunity it is on me to make sure I give them no option but to look at me for a Storm jersey.

If I can get a jersey this year and get my player number that would be massive.

I just want to put myself in a position where I can contribute.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.