Gerard Beale's return as an emergency back-up to help the Dragons through a wave of backline injuries and suspensions could just end up being a much longer-term return to first grade.
The 30-year-old former New Zealand international all but retired from professional rugby league at the end of last year after an injury-riddled three years with the Warriors, making a move into teaching at Brisbane's Marsden State High School.
Beale wasn't even fussed about playing Intrust Super Cup until an approach from the Jon Buchanan-coached Easts Tigers rekindled the flame and led to a remarkable mid-season NRL return with the Dragons.
"I would never have thought this would happen," Beale told NRL.com.
"Especially at the start of the year, I was happy to take that step away and sort of focus on other things more. That was my plan.
Dufty at his creative best for Beale
"I never intended really on coming back in but what happened from there was I ended up getting involved with Easts Tigers up in the Queensland Cup and started really enjoying my footy.
"It's just been a rollercoaster the last couple of weeks. I began to think if an opportunity popped up I'd probably look at it. I spoke to my wife and she was happy for that and it's just worked out."
Beale said the standard was high from the get-go at the Storm feeder club with the likes of Brenko Lee, Dean Ieremia, Ryley Jacks, Aaron Booth and Aaron Pene lining up week to week.
Match Highlights: Dragons v Broncos
"I probably underestimated it a bit too because you get a lot of the NRL boys coming through," Beale said.
"I was like 'this is high quality' but it was good, refreshing."
Beale had plenty of praise for the Warriors as a club but said the serious injuries he had to endure in his time there dented his confidence and enthusiasm for the game.
The relationship got off on the wrong note with Beale breaking his leg on Kiwis duty before even starting and missing the first 10 weeks of his Warriors deal.
"The last three years my time at the Warriors, it's a great club but I was really dampened with a couple of big injuries which dented my confidence and enjoyment in what I was doing," he said.
"The Warriors are a great club and great bunch of boys but personally I broke my leg when I arrived with the Kiwis so that wasn't really a good start.
"It took a while, got back on the field, started to find some form then broke my kneecap in 2019 and again it was almost like a few question marks on what I was trying to achieve and just my confidence."
When that deal finished up at the end of 2020 with Beale having played just 32 games in three years, he returned to Brisbane and though he hadn't formally retired he started his transition into his post-playing career.
"I got into a bit of teaching which was what I'm going to look to get into in the future I'd say," he added.
"I was doing a lot of coaching out at a big rugby league school in Brisbane, Marsden State High School. There's a lot of kids there which gave me another perspective.
"I'm doing some other study and then I was classed as a teacher aide and a lot of my role is coaching with all the teams there which I really enjoy. I'm looking at completing the study to be a teacher and go down the education pathway."
Beale was coaching on the day the Dragons initiated contact.
Within 24 hours I was down here with the team and the rest is sort of history.Gerard Beale
"I was at Marsden High School just doing my thing, coaching, had a whole bunch of missed calls from the Dragons and within 24 hours I was down here with the team and the rest is sort of history," he laughed.
"The past two weeks have been great. I felt physically really good so I'm pretty keen to play on. And while I'm playing on I've got a clear focus on what I want to try and get into which is another big bonus.
"Taking that step away from footy helped me see what I wanted to get into so my mind and mental space is in a good place."
Beale only got a look in after the injury and suspension curse rubbed out the likes of Zac Lomax, Max and Mat Feagai, Matt Dufty, Mikaele Ravalawa, Tyrell Fuimaono and Jordan Pereira in a short space of time.
His season debut in round 12 netted him 170 metres and five busts in the loss to the Tigers, and he added 120 metres and a try in the big win over the Broncos in round 13 – all of which has him eyeing a contract extension for next season.
"Coming down here I knew that was the reason why the opportunity came was the injury and suspension toll in the outside backs," he said.
"It's not really about me, I'm happy to help the team and if I can keep playing well and enjoying it hopefully that will push my case to be in the team but one week at a time.
"I'm pretty keen to [play on next year]. Obviously it depends as well on the next few weeks and how the year unfolds but the last two weeks has been a great start, I'll look to keep building and if I can stay physically fit, we'll see what happens."
After scoring a try in last week's big win over Brisbane, he will again line up in the centres for Monday's clash with the Bulldogs at Stadium Australia.