Returning Waratahs Ned Hanigan admits it felt like a second debut when he once again ran out in the sky blue last Sunday, eager to help the group in their finals push.
Hanigan returned during last week's win over the Highlanders, making an immediate impact as he set up Tane Edmed for the game-sealing try.
The 27-year-old, who has plied his trade for Japanese club Kurita Water Gush since the start of 2021, was initially slated to come off the bench against the Hurricanes before a knock in training delayed it by a week.
When he finally got the chance to come on, he was hit with a range of emotions.
“I was actually packing bricks,” the laid-back Hanigan told reporters.
“I thought I was all good, and had a good week but when I was on the sidelines and Pauli (Taumoepeau, Waratahs forwards coach) told me to warm up, I just went from feeling all good to it being like my debut.
“I really enjoyed it, it was a great week and we got the result which is always nice. Sometimes you can come back in and that doesn’t work and you don’t get the result so it’s really good to get that ‘W’."
Hanigan returned to the group at the start of the month, instantly noticing the accountability that has driven the squad into the top six.
After experiencing the 'sad' 2021 campaign as a fan, Hanigan could barely hide his excitement surrounding the current trajectory of the team.
“It’s like being a Waratahs fan. You watch from afar and see the team do not as well as you might think or club do so that’s I think just sad,” he explained.
“You know there’s plenty of good blokes there putting their best foot forward but it just wasn’t going their way and they were on the other side of the ledger a lot. This year, they’ve bound together as a tight-knit group and things have been going their way.
“The feelings are the same as everyone else, you watching it as a bit of fun and watching the Rugby. I love the sky blue, love the ‘Tahs…definitely in the last couple of weeks, I got super excited to come back into the group and try and contribute and be a part of something.”
After a strong performance, Darren Coleman and the coaching staff will have plenty of headaches surrounding selections in the back-row, with Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco expected to return and Charlie Gamble coming off a 6-2 split-bench.
With the finals a fortnight away, the 21-Test Wallaby was refusing to buy into talk about who will start or miss out, letting it sort itself out.
This has been one of the key developments in his mindset according to Hanigan, finding that balance away from the sport after his decision to leave Australian Rugby
“I left and it was the right decision at the time, needed a bit of a change and then it was when I came to the understanding that I wanted to return, it was the right time,” he believes.
“I just feel like I’ve changed from a mentality point of view. I learnt a lot overseas about a balance into it, which is really important. I’m just making sure when I’m around things, you give 100% and then the ability, which I think you have to learn, sometimes you can come in and leave a place and really think about things.
“If you can give 100% whilst you are here and when you leave, if you need to cross the t’s and dot the i’s with a couple of things during the week you can do that but to be able to be present at home and away from the game is pretty important which I definitely learnt being overseas.”