Three different clubs and three times the head coach was shown the door. Joel Thompson was beginning to worry if he was a jinx.
"I thought I was the poison – even my mates asked me if I was poison or the ‘coach killer’," Thompson said of being a Raider when David Furner was sacked in August 2013, being a Dragon when Steve Price was forced out in May 2014, and being at Manly last year when Trent Barrett parted ways with the Sea Eagles.
"It’s how footy works sometimes. I had a bit of a tough start I guess but you enjoy these good years like this right now. That’s why it’s hard to leave."
Thompson is in a rosy patch right now. He's played every game this year under new coach Des Hasler, he's about to play finals footy with a side that can make the grand final, and he's winning a bet with his good mate Curtis Sironen.
"I’ve got a little [tries] competition with Siro, so I’ve got him by one at the moment," Thompson said of his six to fellow back rower Sironen's five.
It is intense combat. Both players scored against the Knights in the 30-6 win last weekend and both scored against South Sydney two weeks earlier.
Match Highlights: Sea Eagles v Knights
Manly is one win outside the top four after 12 victories so far and five matches left in the club competition – a far cry from six victories all year in 2018.
This could be 30-year-old Thompson's best chance to win a premiership – and a timely one as he's off contract this year.
"I don’t want to get ahead of myself as we’ve still got a lot of stuff we need to fix as a team. But we’re building nicely," he said.
"We’ve got some really good players here and we’ve just got to keep challenging each other.
"The best thing about this year is that we’re holding each other accountable. You know if you go out there and don’t do your role the best you can, you’re letting down the team and you feel bad about that.
"I haven’t felt like that as a player before. So we’re building a good little culture here and bonding well as a team."
That quality team environment and his rewarding work off the field as part of the NRL's State of Mind program, means Thompson is not so keen now to pull up stumps and move on.
He wants to stay and will take a cut in salary to do so.
"At the start of the year I thought heading overseas would be the best for us [family], but the stuff I’ve been doing off-field it’s hard to leave behind," he said.
Get Caught Up: Round 20
"I’ve been doing that for the last eight years and being at a club that’s winning … I’ve been in clubs where coaches have been sacked or we’ve been at the bottom, so I’ve never really felt like this as a footballer – just that winning environment.
"I’d love to stay here, and I’m happy to sacrifice money because money is not everything to me.
"Hopefully they can work something out to keep me here but I can understand if they can’t. They’ve got some good players in the [Trbojevic] brothers and other players, so they deserve what they can get.
"It’s a waiting game at the moment and hopefully I get something sorted soon."
Tackle of the week: Round 20
One of the younger guys looking up to Thompson is first-year Sea Eagle Corey Waddell.
"Any club would want a bloke like Joel Thompson because of the experience he brings. He’s first class and a real good club man … great footy player too, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to keep him," the former Panther said.
"He’s pretty old school – very tough – I know exactly what I’m going to see from him every game both defensively and in attack.
"When we have team meetings he’s always speaking up and I listen to everything he says about mindset. What he says is so true and it gets us ready for training and ready for the game."