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'Thought the ship had sailed': Brittain's career back on course

Only three weeks ago, Billy Brittain accepted the "ship had sailed" on his NRL career and figured he'd have to rely on fitting sprinklers to make a living.

On Sunday, Brittain will play off the bench for St George Illawarra in their round-one clash against the Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium.

Stuck behind NSW and Australian hooker Damien Cook at the Rabbitohs, the 25-year-old rake left in search of greater opportunity.

But until Dragons captain Cameron McInnes hurt his knee at the NRL Nines in February, the 2019 Canterbury Cup Player of the Year expected to hang up the boots for at least this season.

"I went straight back into work probably October last year and was getting information that something might happen, something won't happen [with footy]," Brittain told NRL.com.

"It was just up and down. I thought I was going to be [fitting sprinklers] for definitely the next two years. I didn't think anything was going to happen footy-wise.

"I was pretty happy with the year I had last year and it was disappointing I couldn't get something done a bit earlier.

"I couldn't really dwell on it for too long ... Everything doesn't go your way sometimes and you've got to move on pretty quickly otherwise you're going to get left behind."

Dragons v Wests Tigers - Round 1

Instead of immediately finishing his apprenticeship, Brittain will wear the Red V for the next two years after impressing enough in his short pre-season stint to earn a contract.

The hooker didn't miss a beat when he was called on by St George lllawarra, having trained on his own through the summer.

Brittain departed South Sydney with no hard feelings - saying it was a mutual decision - and is thankful for what Cook taught him.

"He definitely helped me with my running game because that's probably his biggest strength," Brittain said.

"It wasn't just that, obviously with his career taking off a lot later than other players, I took a lot of motivation out of that.

"I haven't played a lot of NRL games [two so far] and seeing what Cooky and Cody Walker have done in the later part of their careers, I drew a lot of inspiration from that.

"Touch wood, hopefully something similar can happen for me."

For the opening rounds of the Telstra Premiership as McInnes rehabs his injury, Brittain will share dummy-half duties with Issac Luke.

Rather than viewing Luke as his rival for a bench spot once McInnes is fit, Brittain has picked the former Kiwi Test rake's brain.

"I'd be silly not to take as much advice off him as possible because he's played at the highest level," Brittain said.

"I love watching how he trains because he's very crafty around dummy-half. Although I took running game [tips] off Cooky, around-the-ruck stuff is what I'll be looking at working with Issac."