Troubled Warriors recruit Kieran Foran says his ability to perform as an NRL footballer hid the full extent of numerous personal problems that contributed to his life and career unravelling.
The former Manly and Parramatta playmaker has endured a tumultuous past 12 months which encompassed a failed attempt on his life by prescription pill overdose, before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury and his controversial exit from the Eels last July, as he continued to struggle with mental illness, addictions and upheaval in his home life.
Until the dramas of the past year unfolded, Foran's status and reputation as one of the game's best and most consistent players saw his personal life avoid close scrutiny.
He appeared to have everything in order. It was unthinkable such a dominant and consistent player - one of the game's perceived cleanskins - could be so unhappy and struggling to the point where he would attempt suicide and walk away from his career and Eels contract worth a reported A$5 million.
"My life was always pretty erratic and I didn't live the most healthy and stable lifestyle," said Foran.
"No one knew about my issues because I was a pretty closed book and always did a good job of letting on that life was pretty good.
"Like all things in life, you can do it for a period of time until eventually your world unravels, and I was able to play great football even with my life not being together.
"I always treated football seriously and I've always given everything in terms of my training and playing.
"But there was a lifestyle I've lived away from rugby league that didn't serve me any good.
"When you are making poor decisions in your personal life, it will catch up to you and that's something I had to learn the hard way.
"Some blokes, it takes a while, but I was making poor decisions and wasn't taking good care of myself and eventually that caught up to me."
Foran looks back on his meteoric rise from teenage prodigy to NRL premiership winner within two years of debuting for Manly in 2009 and says on-field success helped conceal his issues.
"Rugby league can mask what's really going on in your life," he said.
"If you can play football well enough on the weekend, everyone assumes your life is great but the reality is that's not always the case.
"You can be bloody good at compartmentalising and performing for 80 minutes but your life away from football can be struggling. And for me, I was. I had a lot going on in my life."
Only after he suffered his shoulder injury last May did the full extent of his troubles begin to emerge.
His reputation sank further when he was caught up in allegations of match-fixing relating to his association with controversial Sydney gambling figure Eddie Hayson.
That matter and additional allegations that he sent abusive text messages to a journalist further jeopardised his return to the rugby league field.
The NSW police investigation into match-fixing remains open but following a lengthy probe by the NRL, Foran was cleared of any wrongdoing before his one-year contract with the Warriors was finally approved last month.
"I'm not guilty of match-fixing. I've played 150-odd first grade games and I've never once been asked to throw a game and nor have I ever thrown a game. And I stand by it and I've said that from the start."
As part of the conditions of his contract registration, he was ordered by the NRL to sever ties with Hayson and to shut down his betting accounts.
"Cutting ties with Eddie was easy. The game wanted it, I want to play the game and be a part of rugby league because it's given me a lot and I'm so fortunate to play and do something I love. I get the opportunity to build a life for myself and my two beautiful kids and my family and to create memories by playing this great game, which I've loved doing since I was a kid."
After joining the Warriors late last year, he began to come to terms with his predicament and started to examine and reassess who he was beyond his identity as an NRL star.
"When football was no longer a part of my life, I lost my purpose in life," he said. "That's been the big thing since coming to New Zealand, working out who am I and what sort of person am I.
"Am I a down to earth, caring, loving, gentle man? Am I a gambling drunk? When I put my head on my pillow at night and shut my eyes, what sits best with me? Am I a good man or not?
"That's what I've had to come to terms with and I've had to face those demons and find out who I am and what makes me happy.
"And for my entire life, I've just brushed that aside because I've known who I am as a footballer.
"Everyone will have an opinion off what they've seen or heard. But if you ask those around me that truly know me, they'll tell you I'm a caring bloke and a good person. I believe I'm a good person that made some bad decisions and poor choices."
Foran believes his situation would be a reality for many players who have come through the NRL's junior system and been treated as emerging superstars from a young age.
As a professional career beckoned, his love of the game became all-consuming and he acknowledges now his life has lacked balance and limited his ability to find and understand his place in the wider world.
"My whole life has been rugby league. It would be like this for a lot of rugby league players out there and for most of the blokes that play NRL.
"We grow up playing rugby league. We're put up there throughout our teenage years because we're great at sport and we're competitors and great at rugby league.
"We get to first grade and rugby league is our life, it consumes us.
"But at 18 or 19, do we really know what sort of person we are? Or are we just living in the world of rugby league where we only know 'Kieran Foran, the footballer'?"
Foran believes many of his pre-existing and underlying personal and mental issues would have continued to go unaddressed if not for his layoff.
"If I didn't get injured and kept turning up for Parra, it would have been another year where I would have played good footy and everyone would have said 'his life's together'. That's what football has got the ability to do at times, is hide what's really going on behind the scenes."
Having survived one attempt on his life, Foran struggled for some time to shake off negative feelings and thoughts of suicide.
"It has been the fight of my life. There have been times when I haven't wanted to jump behind the wheel of my car because I've been worried I'd drive my car into a pole at 160km/h. And that has happened on a number of occasions.
"I just didn't want to get behind the wheel of my car because I just thought 'I'll kill myself here'."
Having worked to piece his life and career back together, he has been further distressed by accusations his mental illness is a facade designed to obscure his chequered past and enable him to avoid taking responsibility for his actions.
"My situation is very complex. I had poor habits, I had addiction and I had mental illness. I've seen psychiatrists for the past 18 months and there's no right or wrong.
"Mental illness is real and it's a personal struggle that only the person suffering and those around them know what it's like.
"It's a torrid road. It takes everything you've got to get through it."
Settling in Auckland has allowed Foran to start afresh and given him the best chance to overcome a gambling addiction he has battled since he was a teenager.
"I was a gambling addict," he said. "I had been for most of my career. I've never bet on rugby league but I've bet big money on horses and greyhounds.
"I started gambling as a teenager. At 16, I was gambling most afternoons. As I earned more money, I was gambling more and more and more. I'm open enough to admit that now.
"That's an element away from football that can bring your life undone. It's just a way of life you just get caught up in."
In addressing his problems and deciding to leave Sydney, Foran was determined to resurrect himself as a better man and dad to young children Jordan, one, and Emerson, three.
"Making the decision to come to New Zealand wasn't easy because I've got two beautiful kids that I love to death. But I knew that I could make a decision to come here and change for the rest of my life, for my kids, and finally be the father that I know I can be to them.
"And the proof is in how I'm feeling and my lifestyle. I don't gamble. I haven't gambled in 4 months."
He credits New Zealand's relatively tame betting culture for helping him resist temptation, compared with his time in Australia, where he found gambling almost impossible to avoid.
"Gambling is definitely bigger in Australia than New Zealand," he said. "In Sydney, there's a TAB every kilometre. Every pub is licensed to have a TAB. So if you want to go and have a beer with your mates, you're surrounded by punting.
"It's not the same in New Zealand. I can tell you that because I've been here for 4 months and I haven't placed a bet.
"There's not betting machines in every pub, there's not TABs on every corner. I just think it's easier in Australia to get caught up doing it."
His playing future beyond this season remains uncertain but no matter where he finishes his career, he'll remain grateful for the help and support provided by the Warriors.
He's also appreciative of the space and respect afforded to him by Warriors fans and the public and their support has played a large role in restoring his confidence.
"The support I've had here has been great. I owe a lot to my extended family here and also the club.
"For me now, it's about making smart decisions. Every day I wake up, I say to myself 'today, be a better man and make better decisions'.
"I think people here genuinely want to see me do well. Not just as a footballer, people genuinely want to see me get well.
"They want to see me happier and to see me playing good footy again," says Foran.