I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason and while I was forced to retire from the game of rugby league at the age of 26, I could have dwelled on my injuries and let it get to me.

But I honestly look at my six years in the NRL and feel blessed that I had the opportunity that so many other aspiring rugby league players never get.

That whole period of my life was a real blessing in terms of self-development and how to build resilience, effectively teaching me how to grow as a person for the “real world”, rather than just being an athlete so to speak.

It was tough at first, but looking back now it was probably the biggest blessing in my life today.

When I retired, just one day after my 26th birthday, no doubt that was the biggest change and transition I’ve ever gone through in my life and it was definitely for the better.

When I teared the anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee in March, 2016, I was coming into my ninth operation in only four years.

I had had a lot of injuries leading up to that ACL tear, having also succumbed to a series of hip, ankle, groin and shoulder problems.

So once I did my knee, I already knew what the rehab was going to be – I knew how to deal with injuries, given I had experienced so many in my career in such a short period of time.

But this time was different. The club doctor was adamant in his assessment. Given the seriousness of the injury and the damage that I had put my body through in that four years, their medical advice was it would be in my best long-term interests to walk away from the game.

As an athlete, there’s no worse words to hear than ‘career-ending injury’. But that was the reality of my situation and despite how I may or may not have felt at the time, nothing was going to change that.

It was a sudden retirement, but I had to approach it with the same mindset I’d always approached my footy and that was with a sheer drive and determination to put my best foot forward.

If the injuries taught me anything, it was gratitude and appreciation for all that I have in my life. Even if I didn’t go through all those injuries and the eventual sudden retirement, would I be where I am now?

I’m still on the journey of feeling fulfilled as a person and really happy and grateful for where I am in my life.

That wouldn’t of happened, the acceptance of gratefulness if I didn’t go through that period of injuries and learn how to deal with constant adversity.

I was forced to retire young, but you hear stories of older guys leaving the game and they go through phases where they feel lost and don’t know what to do next.

I can really relate to them because I’d basically come straight out of high school into playing professional sport and I am able to laugh about it now, but as an athlete your resume is pretty empty when you hang up the boots.

No one really cares who you are once footy’s finished. So you have to do all you can to either get a qualification or pursue higher education.

During rehab a few players had said to me, you’d be really good at real estate and I’d always loved real estate on a personal level, so I just delved straight in and did my full licence while I was going through rehab in my final year of contract.

Then when unfortunately I did get told my ACL tear was career-ending I basically had a bit of work experience up my sleeve and then literally just called a few places out of the blue and said I want a job and I’m hungry to learn.

I was lucky enough to snag a job at one of the local real estate offices, which definitely eased the pressure of retirement, knowing I had found a job almost immediately and had somewhat of a qualification behind it.

As I said your resume is empty as an athlete, so it’s now imperative for today’s players to make the most of their time in the game and not necessarily just focus on the football side of the industry.

You have to be building up your experience and networks, because you are in a fortunate position where you’ll be able to meet a lot of amazing people especially in the business world.

I was never afraid to call someone out of the blue who I might have met at a club networking event, just to let them know that I was keen and eager to share a coffee.

So definitely looking back it was hard and I can see how people say they feel lost but also in saying that, you’ve got to look in the mirror and say, “Am I a person in this world or am I just an athlete.”

Your story is whatever you want it to be, and whatever you tell yourself it is.

For those privileged enough to make it to the NRL, football is such a miniscule part of your actual life – appreciate every single day you get to wake up and go train and live out your childhood dream.

There’s people out there that would die to be in our position, so my message to the next generation of NRL hopefuls and the current players, is to make the most of it while you’ve got that short period to live out your dream.

It all comes back to the appreciation mindset I spoke on earlier. Now, through my role with the Gold Coast Titans Elite Development System, I’m having an opportunity to impact the game’s youth and share my own experience in a bid to help them realise their own rugby league aspirations.

The TEDS program is not just about helping them develop their footy but also creating a sound environment and making sure the kids appreciate their selection into the talent academy. Because again, there’s so many kids that would do anything to be where they are right now.

I’m really passionate about helping all the kids become the best rugby league players they can be and even better people off the field.