League: Rabbits come to rescue of fallen Maroons hero

By Laine Clark

Dane Nielsen held his own on his Rabbitohs debut. Photo / Getty Images
Dane Nielsen held his own on his Rabbitohs debut. Photo / Getty Images

All seemed lost for Dane Nielsen. Fresh from two underwhelming seasons with the Warriors, Nielsen was sacked last year two games into a two-year St George Illawarra contract after a woman claimed he bit her on the leg during a drinking session at a Cronulla nightspot.

Suddenly Nielsen was running around in the Mackay competition in the north of Queensland.

He was a former Maroons Origin player. He had won premierships with Melbourne.

How the mighty had fallen.

Nielsen snagged a 2015 contract in England, albeit with semi-professional, second-tier outfit Bradford. He lasted just five games.

At 30, Nielsen thought he would never play NRL again. No wonder he was surprised about making his South Sydney debut in Friday night's 8-30 loss at Brisbane.

"To be honest, I wasn't sure whether it [NRL return] was going to happen after last year," Nielsen said. "But I got the chance to come back to a good club and put my head down and worked my backside off."

Nielsen was thrown an NRL lifeline by South Sydney coach Michael Maguire after the team lost Dylan Walker to Manly and missed out on James Roberts in the pre-season.

He arrived in January - two months behind his team-mates in their pre-season preparation. Maguire offered no promises.

"I spoke to him after New Year's," Nielsen said. "He didn't guarantee me anything but he said if an opportunity came up, he had full trust in me to do the job."

"I returned in January. I had a lot of catching up to do - it was pretty tough. I am not sure what will happen from here but I want to make the most of it."

Nielsen held his own on his Rabbitohs debut - much to Maguire's delight.

"It's a really good story," he said. "To see him have the highs then face some resilience the last couple of years says a lot about him as a person.

"He didn't have a pre-season but he worked extremely hard to get himself this opportunity. And to have a senior player in this organisation is going to help the younger players through this sort of period."

South Sydney have lost five of their past six games.

-AAP

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