A year in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons has made newly re-signed Panthers utility Tyrone May appreciate life more.
This time last year the 24-year-old’s rugby league career was in severe doubt as he awaited the outcome of much-publicised legal proceedings.
The Blacktown product wasn’t sure whether he’d go to prison for his off-field indiscretions or be banned from the game altogether – nothing was certain, everything was up in the air.
In January – after nearly 12 months out of the game – May’s fate was decided in court, paving the way for him to finally return to his happy place… the footy field.
Speaking with Extra Time on the eve of the NRL Finals, the Samoan international said he’s finally in a good mental and physical state after the toughest period of his young life.
“I can’t complain… I’m just happy to be playing footy again,” May admitted.
“I missed out last year and to be on the roll that we’re on now has been great to be a part of.”
With May’s career hanging by a thread this time last year, he almost can’t believe how much his life has turned around since. The Minchinbury Jets junior said he appreciates every single minute he’s out on the field, contributing to Penrith’s immense success this season.
“You just can’t take anything for granted, just roll with the punches, and to be able to be on this team is unbelievable,” he said.
“I don’t want to take any moment for granted, this one especially.”
In his 12 appearances for the Panthers this season, May has enjoyed a starring role off Ivan Cleary’s bench. Not only has he had a hand in six tries for Penrith, but he’s proven his versatility by playing in several positions.
“I’m just happy to play anywhere, I don’t even know what position I like best. I just love playing footy and it’s a bonus that I can play so many positions,” May said.
“I’ve always known I can play a few positions, I’ve played a few coming through the grades. Ivan tells me to be prepared for anything because if someone goes down you just don’t know where you’re going to play. I just have to know everyone’s roles.”
Even though his on-field experience is confined to just 31 first grade matches, May’s footy IQ will be hugely important to the Panthers come the start of the Finals next week.
May was there the last time Penrith played post-season footy and will use previous Finals defeats to his advantage.
“I think we’re better for the losses that have come before and hopefully we can learn from them,” May said.
“I know how disheartening it was when we lost that semi against the Sharks in 2018, it wasn’t a good feeling. Everyone wants to win the Grand Final and we’re in a good position to give it a crack. It would be a shame if we didn’t put our best foot forward in the coming weeks.”
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.