Nyngan Tigers gun Justin Carney reflects on time at the top

GREEN MACHINE: Justin Carney is a powerful figure on any wing, but he'll be in black and gold in 2019 as coach of the Nyngan Tigers. Photo: AAP
GREEN MACHINE: Justin Carney is a powerful figure on any wing, but he'll be in black and gold in 2019 as coach of the Nyngan Tigers. Photo: AAP

Challenging. Rewarding. Unbearable. Grateful.

You ask Justin Carney to look back on his 11 seasons in the NRL and English Super League and it's pretty clear life as a professional rugby league player was a roller coaster ride for the bulldozing winger.

But with arguably the toughest part of his life behind him, the now retired Carney says he's happier than he's ever been.

The reason? Nyngan, naturally.

“I needed a bit of realism in my life and needed to be closer to my kids. I couldn’t think of any other place than Nyngan," Carney said.

"I needed to come home. I was sick of the rigmarole of professional footy life."

LISTEN: Hear from Nyngan Tigers pair Justin Carney and Jacob Neill ahead of the 2019 Group 11 season:

So he rang Tigers president Glen Neill and got the ball rolling. Carney was coming home.

And it wasn't until he arrived back in the Bogan Shire in October that the 30-year-old realised what he'd been missing.

While the immense pressures of playing professionally wore heavily on the hugely guarded Carney, he now knows those that helped him realise his dreams are those that still stand by him today.

“I’ve messed up," Carney admits.

"But you come back here and people that were mates when I left are still my mates now. I don’t get that anywhere else.

ON THE BUS: Nyngan duo Jacob Neill and Justin Carney gear up for the club's Group 11 campaign in 2019. Photo: NICK McGRATH

ON THE BUS: Nyngan duo Jacob Neill and Justin Carney gear up for the club's Group 11 campaign in 2019. Photo: NICK McGRATH

"I look now and think how did I put up with (professional footy). It was unbearable sometimes.

“You got through it because it was your job. And that’s how I treated it. People say you’ve got the best job in the world, but that’s a load of crap. It’s very challenging.

“Overall it's a journey I’m grateful for and I owe it to Nyngan and my family.

"Through the years, and especially the tough years, the toughest part of it all was leaving here. The final step is coming home and that’s not a challenge. I needed it to happen.

“I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in life.”

Bringing the town together, that’s what I want to do ... the town’s been a big part of how I got where I did.

Nyngan Tigers coach Justin Carney on his goal for the club this season.

Rugby league will continue to toss Carney plenty of challenges in 2019.

He's in the midst of his first coaching gig at Nyngan this season and while he admits he's basically starting from square one he'll lead the Tigers in the exact same manner he runs the ball.

No fuss, straight as an arrow and very, very hard.

“I’ve never coached an under 8s side. I don’t know one thing from another, I just want everyone on the same page," he said.

“It’s still a massive challenge for me, a different role. There’s a lot of good players here. I’ll treat it like I always treat footy and do my best."

One thing the former Canberra Raiders and Sydney Roosters winger does know is how to play.

He scored two tries on debut for the Raiders in 2008 and later went on to cross for 72 tries in 67 appearances for ESL club Castleford Tigers.

Carney jokes he's arrived at Larkin Oval as an "orange peeler" to start with but he's determined to make his mark on the field.

“I’m playing every game. I’m coming here to play. I’m not here to just coach. I don’t look at myself as just a coach. I’m here to play and play my best," he says with plenty of conviction. 

GOOD TIMES: Jacob Neill is mobbed after scoring a try in the 2017 Group 11 preliminary final win over Parkes.

GOOD TIMES: Jacob Neill is mobbed after scoring a try in the 2017 Group 11 preliminary final win over Parkes.

It's the same conviction just about everyone at Nyngan has when they talk about the Tigers.

Few towns in the bush love their rugby league more. 

And Carney is embracing that passion.

“Bringing the town together, that’s what I want to do," he said.

"I want everyone from the town at the game. The town’s been a big part of how I got where I did.”

“As everyone knows, it’s a big thing to have him back in Nyngan," Tigers stalwart Jacob Neill adds.

"It’s not just a stint to just be back, he wants to come back and strive to make the place better.

"The biggest thing Nyngan thrives on is how passionate people are about football club, he brings that straight away.

"He's passionate about the football club, passionate about Nyngan."