SHELLHARBOUR'S Jai Field will put one of the toughest stretches of his rugby league career behind him this weekend when he runs onto Campbelltown Stadium with Parramatta's NSW Canterbury Cup side.
The Group Seven product, at the end of 2019, decided to part ways with St George Illawarra.
"I'd been in the Dragons system since my juniors and I just felt I needed a fresh start - in a way I had outgrown the club," Field said.
"They had two representative halves established at the club in Ben [Hunt] and Corey [Norman] and I just felt it was time I went elsewhere to prove myself."
After not much interest in Australia, it appeared Field's next move would lie in England.
"There was a fair bit of communication between my manager and Leeds in England," he said.
"However, as they were already at their quota of five international players, we had to wait until a spot freed up."
The hope for Field was Rhyse Martin, a former Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldog, would get his Papua New Guinean passport approved, as players from Kolpak Nation (Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and PNG) aren't counted in the quota.
"We were hoping the passport got sorted before Christmas but it didn't come to fruition," he said.
"And with still being processed, I was left in limbo as to what I should do next in rugby league - it wasn't an ideal situation as I had no income or group to train with."
Field, as a result, spent the majority of the off-season training by himself in Shellharbour.
"Over the summer, I was doing a lot of my own training," he said.
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"It was difficult to stay motivated each day and work hard at both the gym and on the field, not knowing what is going to happen next."
Then three weeks ago, Parramatta came calling with a six-week train-and-trial contract.
"I jumped at the offer made by the Eels," he said.
"The whole club has been really welcoming and helped me get on the same page - it was just so good to be doing training drills in a NRL set-up once again.
"You sort of forget how much you crave and miss footy when it's taken away from you like that."
Upon his arrival to the Bankwest Stadium based franchise, the 22-year-old talked with Eels coach Brad Arthur - a fellow Group Seven talent with Batemans Bay.
"When I got there, Brad [Arthur] explained how they had a strong spine but lacked a bit of depth in those squad positions," he said.
"He told me there was an opportunity for me and encouraged me to make the most of it."
Field didn't look back, impressing on both the training track and in the Eels' trial matches with the Rabbitohs, Tigers and Panthers.
"It was a good time to come into the squad, as I missed most of the pre-season and there were games being played," he said.
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"Considering my preparation going into the trials, I thought I played well - my last game was in September when our Dragons NSW Cup side was eliminated.
"I didn't try and overplay my hand, just play my role in the system, which the coaches were happy with."
Now halfway through his six-week deal, Field has been named to start at five-eighth for the blue and golds when they battle Canterbury-Bankstown on Sunday at Campbelltown Stadium from 1.05pm.
"My main goal on Sunday is to not be too flashy and control the tempo of the game the best I can, which is what halves are supposed to do," he said.
"Kicking to corners and making my one-on-one tackles are two areas I'm focused on - if I do them well, I'm sure I can help the boys get the two points."
At the end of the day, Field knows if he produces on the park, the off-field aspects will take care of themselves.
"The Leeds situation is still hanging over my head a bit but I can't worry too much about it," the NSW under 20s representative said.
"I've got three more weeks here at Parramatta and then I'll reevaluate the situation.
"If Parramatta were to table an extended offer, I'd have to seriously consider it but nothing is in concrete yet.
"I'm just going to continue to put my best foot forward, as I'm realistically playing for my next contract and my future."