By Mary Maidiotis

St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Craig Garvey is excited by the chance to continue playing in the first-grade side against the North Queensland Cowboys at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Saturday.

The Earlwood Saints junior, who had not played since round 13 last year, started off the interchange bench against the Parramatta Eels last weekend in lieu of suspended hooker Mitch Rein.

Garvey, 22, is hopeful of stringing together some solid performances to ensure his playing future at the club he has been at since the age of 16.

“It was kind of a shock to get called up last week, it’s a bit sad that it had to come because Mitch was suspended but you’ve got to take any opportunity you can and it’s just great to get out there with the boys again,” said Garvey.

“After a year out, I thought I handled it pretty well, the first five minutes my lungs were gone but it helps when you have players like Benji around you talking you through the game so it wasn’t too bad.

“The main thing with me going to the game is I want to gain the respect of the older boys again, get their trust in me playing NRL and hopefully get another spot on the bench.

 “No matter where I’m playing, I just want to put my hand up and do a good job for the team.

“Last year was really hard, I had a lot of time off footy and I had to reassess my life outside of football, so I got all that stuff cleared up and had a couple of good chats to Mary and did what I had to do to get back on the field.

“Ever since then I haven’t looked back and I’ve just been trying to chip my way back into first grade.

“Both Mary and the players have been great, they’ve always been there to help talk me through the process and helped me right through to when I came back to training.

“They just told me to keep my head down and keep chipping away and hopefully I’ll be back on the paddock soon and I couldn’t have asked for more from them.

“I’ve told everyone at the club that I don’t want to go anywhere else, I’ve been here since I was 16 so I definitely want to stay here and hopefully get another contract.

“We’ve got to see how it goes first, Heath is playing real good footy and it’s been hard to get him out of the way since he’s been so consistent and Mitch is killing at the moment so I’ve just got to worry about myself and in years to come we’ll just see what happens.”