Penrith's Tyrone May blames himself for the Panthers missing the NRL finals last year and is set on repaying the club for standing by him during his high-profile sex-tape scandal.
May revealed he almost walked away from the game as he waited for a decision on whether he would be jailed after he pleaded guilty of recording an intimate image without consent.
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"My biggest worry was obviously going to prison," May told AAP.
Having pleaded guilty to the charges from March last year, it wasn't until January that May narrowly avoided going behind bars.
He was instead sentenced to a three-year community corrections order, which he is completing as a grounds keeper at a dog park in Luddenham in Sydney's west.
Asked about the moment he realised he had avoided time, May said: "It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders really, massive relief.
"They just said that I wasn't remorseful, but I obviously was.
"I was pretty s***ty on myself for what happened.
"I felt for (the girls) as well, because they would've got dragged through the whole thing."
May's transgression was part of a series of sex tapes that went viral early in 2019.
The off-field sagas had a disastrous effect on Penrith's start to last season, when they lost eight of their opening 10 games.
When they finally broke their losing stretch in May, coach Ivan Cleary admitted his side "went off a cliff" when the indiscretions were exposed.
May, who had been stood down under the league's controversial no-fault stand-down policy but trained through the entire period, considering quitting on multiple occasions.
"Yeah there were times there I was ready to quit, to be honest with you," he said.
"I put a lot of blame on me personally, last year, for how the team went.
"That was hard."
Cleary, together with son and star halfback Nathan, was instrumental in convincing the 24-year-old May to not give up on his career.
"It was Ivan, a few of the staff members, that got me through it," May said.
"They said, 'Don't worry about it, just keep turning up to training'.
"Sometimes I didn't want to turn up. The hardest part was turning up.
"Once I got there, the feel of the club got me through."
Teammate helped May through tough chapter
Nathan Cleary, who supported May at a court appearance in November, remembered how repentant his good mate was after the videos emerged.
Having risen up the ranks at Penrith together, Cleary made it his personal mission to ensure May didn't lose all hope.
"I knew he was pretty down on it but he'd come over my house pretty much every day and we'd hang out and try and be normal mates," Cleary recalled.
"I didn't want to constantly ask him about stuff like that, and just try and be there for him.
"But me and my family have been there for him through it all.
"That's what makes me proud to see him back and he's playing some good footy."
The off-contract May also has no hesitation re-signing with the club, saying he owes the Panthers for standing by him at his lowest point.
A versatile playmaker who has been used at lock off the bench, May is seen as the ideal utility by his coach this season.
"If the offer's there, I'd sign it straight away. I wouldn't even hesitate," May said.
"I know I have to pay the club back because they've kept the faith in me.
"I want to stay here and hopefully even after my career I can do some stuff around Penrith."