Four years after he last went on the Wallabies spring tour, Izaia Perese has reflected on his long, winding journey back to the Wallabies fold as he looks to finally earn his first cap for Australia.
Named as a development player for his first spring tour in 2016 and then elevated as a full squad member the following year at just 20-years-old, Perese admits an attitude problem held him back and saw his career almost completely derailed as he turned to rugby league and then French rugby team Bayonne, before he was handed a career lifeline by Rugby Australia and the Waratahs.
Speaking ahead of the team's departure for Japan, the 24-year-old was candid about his return to the Wallabies and how he believes rugby was always where he was meant to be.
"I just thought about it [the journey] this last week, I had a chat with mum about it," Perese told reporters. "It's quite funny how I'm back here now, it's all meant to be, union's my game, they gave me a second chance and I just think it's amazing.
"I have thought about it and I just think that this time around I won't take it for granted. I'm definitely going to enjoy it a lot more off the field with getting to know the boys, not being as quiet, 'cause before I was really young.
"I was pretty uptight about making the team and stuff like that when now the journey I've been through, going to France and then you know a lot of other things in the past, it's actually, to the point where now it's just made me appreciate everything that I have, so it's definitely going to be a wonderful tour this year."
A bright and promising young talent, Perese lit up the field during his three seasons at the Queensland Reds before he took up a contract with the Broncos. His career would take a sharp nosedive though when he was sacked after he was charged with a drugs-related offence.
Despite how his NRL career ended, Perese said he was taught valuable lessons and it was a part of his journey that had to happen.
"I think that the switch to rugby league was all part of the journey I was supposed to take. It really taught me to start from the bottom again. I felt like I had a bit of an attitude problem, I didn't know it at the time, but looking back on it when I was exposed to the Wallabies environment at an early age it sort of I felt like I was sort of owed, not owed things, but things came a little bit easy for me.
"Going to the Broncos starting from the bottom again and spending a whole year in Q-Cup it really like taught me valuable lessons that footy isn't life. I felt like I was just sort of watching and learning... So I feel like that journey in league was a good one, it taught me a lot of valuable lessons."
Hoping to revive his career, the centre moved to France to take up a contract with Bayonne but a knee injury saw him earn little game time. It's during his time away from family and friends that he believes he hit rock bottom.
"I could FaceTime and call people but it wasn't the same so then I stopped calling people, I stopped facetiming people and I went into a shell where I just wasn't speaking to anyone. I got hit pretty hard with depression and it was, I think, just in my head I just can't do it anymore.
"I feel like my rock bottom was in France. I thought I was going over there mentally strong, I was physically fit, probably at my fittest I've ever been, but once I got removed from my support system; my family, my friends, my daughter and stuff like that I didn't know how to deal with that loneliness, I didn't know how to deal with all that anxiety that came along with it and it was just a feeling of every day I was just waking up and I just felt like I was sinking and it was hard to get through a day without thinking about home."
Returning to Australian shores, Perese lit up both the Super Rugby AU and Trans-Tasman competitions with his consistent and impressive game play and was quickly back in Wallabies discussions. But a dislocated shoulder in the Waratahs final Trans-Tasman match would cruel his chances of making his debut against France or during the Rugby Championship.
Despite being named in the Wallabies 42-player squad ahead of the French series, Perese has been on the sidelines rehabbing his shoulder, setting himself a goal of returning ahead of the Spring Tour and after just over four months, he's finally back, but has all but ruled himself out to play against Japan.
"My physio laid out a plan ahead of me and it gave me a goal to make Spring tour, but I had no expectation of making it, it was just a goal and sort of a light at the end of the tunnel, so we worked really hard together on achieving it.
"I think it would be a rushing it [shoulder] a little bit [playing Japan], but in saying that the contact I've been doing at Waratahs training or during our preseason has been pretty good and I'm pretty confident in my shoulder.
"It just all depends on our physio and our trainers, what they want from me and the plan moving forward with me on tour. I reckon I would be ready (for Japan), but definitely the week after for Scotland."