Jack Debreczeni wasn’t expecting to be back in Melbourne this year, but he feels he’s a better version of the player and person he was when he left.
Debreczeni played in the Japanese second division over summer, off-contract with the Rebels, and not anticipating a return to the Victorian capital for rugby, until coach Dave Wessels picked up the phone.
“When I left for Japan, I wasn't planning on coming back to the Rebels, there was no real talks there,” he said.
“When I came back to Australia, there was a few calls from Dave and thought I'd take an opportunity and come back down and it's been pretty good so far.
“It’s a great club, the environment's really good at the moment and just meeting a whole bunch of new people both staff and players has been really refreshing for both me and the club itself.”
What he found in Japan was a renewed love for rugby, and a weight lifting that had burdened him in Super Rugby, though injury struggles and inconsistent form in the past two seasons.
This Friday he will be back at flyhalf for the Rebels, something few would have predicted before the preseason trials began.
“It was less stress and pressure than what Super Rugby was,” he said on Wednesday.
“You had guys who are semi-professional and they enjoyed the game for what it was and you brought back memories of when you were a kid, you were just playing it for the right reasons.
“Also going over there living by myself in a foreign country, (I) probably matured quite a bit.
“I've come back a better person both on and off the field.”
Debreczeni and former skipper Nic Stirzaker shouldered much of the responsibility for the team’s attack in 2016 and 2017, and it was a feeling that affected the 24-year-old, who was considered on track for a Test chance only two seasons ago before his rollercoaster truly began.
“I think the last two years before going to Japan, I overthought a lot of things, I was worried about the team and obviously as a 10 most of it falls on you - the attack's going well, you're going well, the attack's going bad, it's all blamed on you,” he said.
“There were struggles at the start when we weren't going so great and I was having to deal with all that stuff.
“I definitely was overthinking a lot of rugby heading into games and wasn't playing the footy in front of me.
“I think I'm more mature, so I think I'm better held to handle those responsibilities this year.”
This time around, he will have experienced campaigner Will Genia inside him, a voice he will certainly be leaning on as the Rebels kick off 2018.
“He's a world class player, (he) takes a lot of pressure off me.
“He does a lot of controlling on the field so I can just play footy.
“His communication is unreal, always lets me know (when) he needs more from me and demands more.”
The Rebels open their season on Friday night against the Reds at AAMI Park, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS. Buy tickets here.