Chris McQueen knew he’d have to answer some tough questions in his first discussion with new Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire.
McQueen played four seasons under Maguire at South Sydney and the pair won a premiership together in 2014 so the former representative back-rower was well aware of the incoming coach's tendency to get straight to the point of matters.
“The very first conversation I had with him I told him that I am here, I do want to be here and I obviously want to get back into the team,” McQueen said.
“In case there was any doubt or any thought that I was maybe going to move on, I just made it clear that I am here and I am willing to give my all for the team.”
Last season was the most difficult and frustrating one McQueen has endured in his 10-year career with Souths, Gold Coast and the Tigers after undergoing delicate neck surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage.
Having made his England debut in 2017 against Samoa, he managed just three NRL appearances last year as he struggled for fitness and form at his third Telstra Premiership club.
The dramatic fall from grace for a player who made more than 150 NRL appearances and played six Origins for Queensland forced him to question his future but the 31-year-old insists he was always confident of turning it around.
"It was definitely the most frustrating year of my life," he said.
"I started the season a long way off the mark and it was really difficult for me to catch back up. I reckon it probably took the best part of three-quarters of the year just to even feel like I was on the pace of the game.
"It’s not like riding a bike. I knew what I wanted to achieve and I know how to play rugby league but I just couldn’t do it. The first carry or the second carry of the game I would be absolutely gassed, and just feel like I was getting dominated from the very start.
"I never thought about giving it away but obviously, you do question your place in squads or in teams. I really struggled to get a start in first grade but I knew that with a full pre-season under my belt, a full weights program, I could get back to my best footy and I am confident I will have a good year."
Maguire’s appointment after the departure of Ivan Cleary has added to McQueen’s optimism as he played his best football under the former Wigan mentor from 2012 to 2015 at Redfern.
McQueen was released by Souths to enable the club to re-sign Sam Burgess after his return from rugby union in England and he joined Gold Coast before linking with the Wests Tigers last season.
"With the way that I played last year, I am not sure that me and Ivan were on the same page and that is fine - that is the way rugby league goes - but I was really excited to see that Madge was coming on board," he said.
"Madge helped me achieve some of the goals I have had since the day I begun playing rugby league, and I know what he expects and what style of footy he likes to play.
"In the rugby league world things happen and people move on so I certainly had no hard feelings when I left Souths. That’s the way footy is now and I was actually really excited when he signed with the club."