Thorpe always a Tiger at heart
There are days where Steven Thorpe and his partner Jen question whether they ever left at all.
After two years in England playing for Sheffield Eagles (in the tier just below Super League), Thorpe has returned to his beloved Easts Tigers and resumed the plumbing job he had before he left while Jen is back at the school where she taught prior.
And just like when he left at the end of the 2014 season, Easts are winning again, with Thorpe rejecting opportunities to stay in England or join other Intrust Super Cup clubs to reunite with close mates such as Matt Zgrajewski, Tommy Butterfield and Shane Neumann.
When Thorpe decided to chance his hand in England in 2015, he had Super League in his sights and his taste of the big time became a bitter-sweet experience.
In his first season, Sheffield qualified for the ‘Middle 8’ playoffs where the carrot for the team that comes out on top is promotion to Super League.
But Thorpe's season was cut short in horrific fashion, suffering major breaks to his tibia and fibula in a ‘Middle 8’ game against Widnes that were so severe that they almost pierced the skin.
Facing an exhaustive rehabilitation program, Thorpe conceded that a week spent at St Helens Hospital waiting for surgery was when he first contemplated coming home.
“It did cross my mind,” Thorpe admitted, who was named Players' Player and Player of the Year in his first year at Sheffield.
“I thought it would be just easier to come home, but I committed for two years and once I make a commitment, I'm the type of person that doesn't want to turn my back on it.
“When I first went over it was going to be a stepping stone to Super League and at the time Sheffield were just on the border of going up to Super League.
“In our first year we went really close and I thought it would be nice to stay and get promotion to Super League but it didn't work out.
“The owners pulled out and the club went pear-shaped so me and my partner thought it would be best if we parted ways with the club and come home.
“We did two years, a lot of travelling, met some lovely people but definitely time to come home."
With the decision made to return to Australia, Thorpe explored a number of opportunities with other Intrust Super Cup clubs before that sense of loyalty guided him back to the Tigers.
“I did start looking elsewhere, but my heart was always at Easts,” Thorpe said.
“I don't think I could ever play for another Cup side. Easts were the ones that gave me an opportunity when I was younger and I love the place.
“I love what the club is about so I didn't want to go anywhere else. It wouldn't have felt right.
“If boys such as Matt Zgrajewski, Tommy Butterfield and Shane Neumann weren't playing anymore I probably would have pulled the pin.
“Scotty Sipple the coach is also a good mate of mine and they were half the reason I came back because I wanted to finish my career off with them and I'm happy I did because we're going well.
“I've only got a couple of years left in me and I always wanted to finish off at Easts with my good mates there, so it was time to come home.”
Did you know? with Tony Webeck
Guy Williams creates a slice of history this weekend when he becomes the first player to appear in 200 games for the Capras. The club captain will also become just the eighth player to feature in 200 Cup games for the one club and the 14th player to reach 200 games in the history of the Cup competition.
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.