Tonsillitis could not stop Todd Carney ending his 1323-day Australian rugby league exile with a typically razzle-dazzle display for the Northern Pride.
Carney got out of his sick bed to play a cameo in the Pride’s 28-22 loss to the Mackay Cutters in a trial in Townsville on Saturday night in preparation for the upcoming Intrust Super Cup season.
The 31-year-old’s previous match in Australia was the Cronulla Sharks’ 24-22 win over the Brisbane Broncos on June 27, 2014.
He subsequently had his contract terminated by the Sharks after his infamous “bubbling” off-field incident and was deregistered by the NRL.
His rugby league return in his homeland after a stint in the Super League has the full backing of Northern Pride CEO Greg Dowling who said Carney’s opening cameo for the club was a stunner.
“The poor bugger came down with tonsillitis three days before the game and was on medication, but he came out at five-eighth and showed great courage and how he is a class above everyone in this competition in the 20 minutes he was out there,” Dowling told NRL.com.
“After 10 minutes he was looking for air with his throat all swollen but he wanted a hit-out and we gave it to him because he hasn’t played since the end of the Super League season.
“He set up a try, kicked goals from the sideline, kicked brilliantly in general play and steered the side around, which I was hoping he would do.”
Dowling said Cairns was buzzing over what Carney could do for the Northern Pride this year.
“From the first day he turned up at training the boys were all throwing 30 metre cut-out passes and chip-kicking from their own quarter-line, so he had the desired effect,” Dowling said.
“He has lifted everyone and they have all been training the house down since he arrived. They don’t take easy options, they flog each other and they all compete.
“Morale has been high and he has spent a lot of time with our young halves and fullbacks and doing all the extras before training and helping them.
“When the poor bugger came off the field on the weekend he was sucking in the big ones and there were people everywhere trying to get selfies with him, but he accommodated them all.”
Dowling believs Carney will secure a deal in the NRL by the end of the year
“I think he will be here for the year and they will have a look at him,” Dowling said.
“There are NRL clubs interested in him but they are just waiting to see what the NRL Integrity Unit does.”