A more relaxed approach to his footy – and his future – has been the recipe for Titans hooker Mitch Rein to resurrect an NRL career he was on the verge of abandoning.
After finishing the past two seasons with few apparent options, Rein – who turns 28 on Thursday – has done enough in the first seven rounds to convince coach Garth Brennan and the Gold Coast hierarchy the rake needs to be tied up beyond this season.
Rein admits he became too caught up in the pressure of contract talks in the last of his six seasons with his home club St George Illawarra in 2016.
The Kiama junior is so laid back now, he doesn't know if there is a deadline on him taking up the option on his Titans contract, nor is he thinking about securing his future.
For the record, his manager George Mimis will visit the Gold Coast next week to start negotiations. The club and player would like the contract option to be replaced by a longer-term deal, with Brennan declaring he wants Rein and Nathan Peats, who is locked in until the end of 2020, as part of the Titans' future.
"I haven't thought about it at all, I've just been concentrating on staying relaxed and enjoying myself," Rein said.
"I think things will work out if I keep that approach. I know I have an option my way but I'm not sure on if there is a deadline to activate it.
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"I was feeling a lot more pressure at the back end of my time at the Dragons and let things get to me a bit more.
"It was a roller-coaster for a while after that but now I'm taking everyone's advice on board and I'm trying to improve. If I stick with that, everything else will work itself out."
Rein agreed to a bargain-priced one-year deal, with an option his way, while overseas on holidays in late October. Despite having a year to run on his Penrith contract, he knew game time would be limited there, and was looking at what options Super League might throw up.
A year earlier, after months of negotiations with the Dragons ended on sorely and he was unwanted after 132 NRL appearances, he first learned that little was guaranteed in the tough business of rugby league.
He'd lost enjoyment from playing the game. Despite playing just five NRL games at Penrith last season as Peter Wallace cemented the No. 9 spot, he regained the spring in his step in the Brennan-coached NSW Cup side that won the title.
He's no longer caught up in the status of being the starting hooker, with incumbent NSW Origin hooker Peats well established at the Titans and often dropping to the back row when Rein has come into the action. Yet he proved last weekend he can knock out a quality 80-minute effort if required.
The 2014-15 Country Origin hooker was, with prop Jai Arrow, the Titans' stand-out performer in their loss to North Queensland – his first as an 80-minute player since mid-2016, due to Peats's absence though injury.
"It's been a pretty big roller-coaster for me," he says. "When I look back on my last season at the Dragons, it just wasn't working out for me there towards the end when I was finishing up."
Coach Paul McGregor made it clear he preferred a hooker who ran less and signed Cameron McInnes from Souths.
"And at Penrith I wasn't getting a run, so it was hard. I've just relaxed a lot more and concentrated on enjoying myself and working hard; and having a more relaxed approach has been better for my mental wellbeing."
A Day of Rein
When Rein move to the Gold Coast last November and he hooked up with his mate from Kiama, Ali Day, the iron man who had weeks earlier won his fifth Coolangatta Gold.
"Ali is very regimented, to live with him and see what he was doing was an eye-opener, that's for sure. He doesn't leave one stone unturned in any aspect of his life. It was awesome to see the things he does. But he's an individual athlete, whereas I'm a footy player and what we do is different, so I don't think I'm taking on his regime any time soon."