Marty Taupau is back playing under Des Hasler five years after having to chase a first grade start elsewhere, vowing to rebuild Manly despite endless contract speculation that forced him off social media.
Taupau credits Hasler for drilling home the harsh realities of NRL life when they first crossed paths at Canterbury, the Kiwi enforcer managing 21 games in four years for the Bulldogs before being granted a release to join Wests Tigers in 2014.
Within months of moving on Taupau was playing for New Zealand and regarded as one of the game's most destructive forwards, a standing that has endured and made him one of the Sea Eagles top earners since arriving in 2016.
With total control over the Bulldogs recruitment and retention, Hasler's call to release Taupau, as well as the likes of Dale Finucane, Michael Ennis and Damien Cook, counted strongly against him in a messy demise at Belmore.
DCE: It's hard not to be excited about Des being back
Taupau smiles and dismisses it as "irrelevant now" whether Hasler once mistakenly underrated him. Instead he praised the returning Sea Eagles coach for bringing back "Manly's DNA" after Trent Barrett handed in his resignation.
"I was under Dessie's regime, I was a lot younger at the Bulldogs, coming through the ranks in SG Ball, under 20s and all that sort of stuff," Taupau says.
"It was an experience, it opened my eyes and I got out of that tunnel vision which was awesome and I had the ability to play alongside legends of the game and especially legends of the Bulldogs club.
"So experiencing him then and now, I've got a very different perspective on him. He's very, very professional in every aspect of rugby league and he's a gentleman as well.
"Once I heard [Hasler's return] was confirmed, it was awesome. It's exactly what Manly is. He's brought back that Manly DNA, that foundation of success and what it means to be [successful] and how to actually achieve it."
Taupau reports that Hasler's return and a predictably tough pre-season has his teammates ripped and ready, while his own late start after resting up from New Zealand's UK tour left him "looking like sloppy joes".
Most every time Taupau fronted the media in 2018, the 29-year-old found himself denying reports he wanted out of the embattled Sea Eagles despite being contracted until the end of 2020.
At various times he was linked to Cronulla, the Roosters, Melbourne and Parramatta, the latter after being photographed meeting with a personal friend who happens to be an Eels welfare officer.
By season's end, Taupau swore off social media – where typically he is one of the game's more prolific big names – having been worn down by speculation over his future.
This November he will officially be a free agent and able to field rival offers, but Taupau says his first priority is lifting Manly out of the mire and not his next deal.
DCE still proud of the game we have
"I'm not leaving, I'm leaving home to go to training and that's it," Taupau said of rugby league's constant chatter.
"It does get frustrating, especially at the back end of the year where I took myself off social media, especially Twitter. That was really frustrating, I try time and time again to put it all to bed.
"It's rugby league, I guess it's a positive that you're being talked about but it's not a positive.
"… I always say I have to play out 2019 and then start to have those conversations about what comes next from then on.
"It becomes a distraction when you start talking about it now if you're investing your time into that instead of the season coming up."