By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
When Adam Quinlan left the Dragons in January last year he never thought he'd find himself back at his local club, let alone become a premiership winner.
The diminutive fullback led the Illawarra Cutters to Intrust Super Premiership glory on Sunday afternoon in a man-of-the-match effort.
The Cutters' 21-20 win over minor premiers Mounties capped off what's been a rollercoaster journey, one that will conclude in next Sunday's NRL State Championship against Intrust Super Cup champions the Burleigh Bears.
"I didn't know where I was going to end up at the end of last year and I ended up back here. What a blessing it's been to be a part of such a great experience at such a great club," Quinlan told NRL.com.
"To win a premiership like that is unbelievable. It's hard to describe the feeling at the moment. I'm trying to wait for it to sink in. To win a premiership anywhere is so very surreal. I couldn't be happier."
Quinlan had initially signed with the Parramatta Eels last year but then cut ties with the NRL altogether as he headed overseas to play for English Super League glamour club St Helens.
Featuring 12 times for the Saints, Quinlan signed a one-year deal at the Dragons last December where he played a further four NRL games.
While he only spent half a season at St Helens, Quinlan gained invaluable confidence under the guidance of coach Kieron Cunningham as well as veteran English internationals Jon Wilkin and James Roby.
Quinlan said it is a trait Cutters coach Jason Demetriou has helped him build on throughout 2016.
"Going over there to St Helens – like JD (Demetriou) has done this year – they told me to back myself. It encouraged me not to hesitate or hold back even if sometimes it doesn't come off," Quinlan said.
"It's hard to put into words what I learned over there. Blokes like Robes (Roby) who are St Helens and England legends, just being around them made so much difference to my game."
In the space of a season the Cutters turned a 10th-placed finish into finishing as champions of New South Wales's major rugby league competition.
"It's a credit to the hard work the boys have put in this year and it's unbelievable to be rewarded that way. They all deserved it," Quinlan said.
"The Mounties probably thought the same too but fortunately it was our day."
Off-contract at year's end, Quinlan was hopeful his star performance will see him add to his 29 NRL games next year and beyond.
With two medals wrapped around his neck, Quinlan however refused to take any responsibility for the Cutters' victory.
"I don't think there should have been an individual award. It was just a great team effort from the 17 players out there," he said.
"Everyone got each other home. We'll celebrate now. You don't win grand finals every day so I think we'll celebrate accordingly now and regroup later in the week to focus on Burleigh."