It has been a whopping 932 days since Zane Musgrove last ran the ball in anger in the NRL.
Not once did Musgrove give up on returning to the world’s premier league competition as injury, police charges and the NRL’s refusal to register his contract brought his blossoming career to a shuddering halt.
Zane Musgrove will add plenty of punch to the Wests Tigers pack after a two-year hiatus.
“I could always see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Musgrove told The Sun-Herald ahead of his first game for Wests Tigers against St George Illawarra at WIN Stadium on Sunday.
“Grateful is the best word. I’m grateful to be back. I’ve missed this so much. I always knew I was going to prove myself and I still had so much to give. I’ve waited for this day for so long.”
Musgrove didn’t feature for South Sydney in 2018 because of an ankle injury.
At the end of that year the Tigers announced Musgrove had agreed to a three-year deal understood to be worth about $1.4 million, only for him to be charged a few days later with indecently assaulting a woman he knew on the dance floor at the Coogee Bay Hotel.
Musgrove was later found guilty and given a 12-month good behaviour bond but has since appealed and will have his case heard in court later this month.
The attitude of league players towards women has again been a hot topic this week following the Canterbury sex scandal involving two players in Port Macquarie.
I think he could be one of the great front-rowers in the game.
Tigers coach Michael Maguire on Zane Musgrove
Musgrove wants to play good football, force his way into the Tigers starting team and be selected for New Zealand – all on minimum wage. The Samoan international’s huge contract was never ratified and he is playing for the NRL’s bottom wage.
“I didn’t get paid last year and I had to go and find a job,” Musgrove said. “I started working in maintenance at Wests Ashfield Leagues Club. The Tigers let me keep training with the [NSW] Cup side.”
Top Tiger Benji Marshall walked past Musgrove during the week and said: “Zane’s vowed to tear apart the Dragons pack by himself.”
“I’m ready to go,” Musgrove said. “I’ve waited for this for two years. I do have a few goals. I want to be the best version of myself and the best front-rower I can be.”
Tigers coach Michael Maguire worked with Musgrove at Souths and said on Saturday: “I think he could be one of the great front-rowers in the game. Unfortunately he hasn’t had a lot of luck with injuries and a few other things externally he’s had to work through, but to see his resilience and stay at it is something I’m proud of.”
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Balmain great Steve Roach recently declared the Tigers needed an enforcer, something they had missed since the departure of Englishman Gareth Ellis.
Speaking on the Countdown to 2020 podcast with Braith Anasta, Roach hoped Musgrove could assume that role because “he’s a monster and he’s aggressive”. Musgrove, who weighs around 111 kilograms, was happy for that challenge.
Meanwhile, the Tigers are expected to test new St George Illawarra fullback Zac Lomax under the high ball after a few nervy efforts under the bomb in the Charity Shield.
Dragons halfback Ben Hunt, however, backed Lomax, saying: "I don’t feel nervous or worried about them testing him. I know he dropped one in that game, but that happens to fullbacks, and he’ll be fine.
“He gets a bit filthy on himself, he wants to be the best he can and tries the hardest he can every time he’s on the field. Zac will do a great job for us.”