More responsible Vaivai steps up
Newcastle let him go, Canberra went cold and the Titans had to issue a media release clarifying they had not signed the 23-year-old front-rower amid reports to the contrary earlir this year.
But the worst thing was that Paterika Vaivai knew he had no one to blame but himself.
Charged with obstructing police and affray after an incident in Brisbane in October last year, Vaivai spent four months in rugby league purgatory waiting to hear how and where his career would continue, if it all.
A lifeline emerged courtesy of the Burleigh Bears and he set about repaying their faith with a season that has helped take them to a drought-breaking Intrust Super Cup premiership and a spot in Sunday's Intrust Super Championship at ANZ Stadium.
Eventually the Titans did come calling and he will join Gold Coast for pre-season training in November on a one-year deal as not only a more complete footballer but a more mature and responsible person.
"I was waiting for something to happen and my contract got ripped up and I just had to take it on the chin. I had to stop blaming everyone else and just look in the mirror," Vaivai told NRL.com ahead of Sunday's state championship showdown with Illawarra.
"I just think I'm a lot more mature now. It's a cliche but you do grow up when you're away from a full-time system.
"You appreciate all the stuff that you did have. Training full-time, not having to work, getting up at 4.30 every morning and pushing barrows every day.
"It's a lesson that I've had to learn and I think I've done my time and learnt for the whole year.
"I'm ready to do pre-season and get back into a full-time system with my off-field stuff solved and a bit more responsible."
As she did for his NRL debut with the Knights in 2014 Vaivai's fiancée Kirstin made a special sign for Sunday's Intrust Super Cup Grand Final and was joined by a large number of her family in cheering the Bears to victory over Redcliffe.
Rather than celebrating with his teammates on the field Vaivai headed high into the stands to thank Kirstin and her family for their support not only across the previous 80 minutes but for the past 12 months.
"It was quite a rough four months from November leading into February, just not knowing where I was going," said the now 24-year-old.
"I was getting a bit down on myself so family members, my fiancée told me that she would always have my back, whatever I needed and she was always there. I am very blessed and thankful for that.
"My family told me that this was my mistake, that I'm a big boy now and that I could fix it but it was up to me whether I wanted to.
"I just tried to put my head down this year and play the best I can for Burleigh and they've made me feel welcome. I respect them and love them for what they've done for me this year.
"It's been a crazy year for me. I came here not expecting anything and the coaching staff just said that whatever happened in the past is in the past and right now they were looking at what I could provide for the boys.
"I've really tried to play my best every game and try to take it on and now we've got a premiership."
With an NRL career revived and a wedding to plan late next year, Vaivai is not only hoping to put last year's incident behind him but also his career as a landscaper that he took on to supplement his contract with Burleigh.
It's the type of commitment the majority of Intrust Super Cup players have to display to earn a second chance and Bears coach Jim Lenihan certainly doesn't expect to have him available for selection again after this weekend.
"He's a first-grader every day of the week," Lenihan said.
"He's only young, he has played some first grade with Newcastle but he's an emotional boy.
"His leadership of men might not be a talking one but it certainly is a 'show them the way' sort of bloke."
To watch the Intrust Super Cup grand final highlights - http://bit.ly/2deNNEz