Former NRL player Tim Simona is determined to get his life back on track following a stunning fall from grace.
The Macquarie Fields residents and former Wests Tigers player was used to seeing his face on television and in newspapers.
But what happened in February was a whole new ball game.
The 25-year-old was sacked by his club and de-registered by the game’s governing body after it emerged he had bet on NRL games – including on opposition teams in matches he was playing in – as a result of a gambling addiction.
The police also charged him with fraud after he allegedly kept the money from jerseys he’d auctioned off for charity.
Simona doesn’t want sympathy and he accepts “full responsibility” for the mess he created.
But he’s hopeful, with time, he can change the perception the general public has of him.
“I know what they think about me from what happened and I respect that, but I know in myself that I’m not that person,” he said.
“I want to make a change.
“I want to preach to anyone that is on my path and prevent them from going there. Hopefully I can give back and show everyone that I’m actually a good person.”
Simona recently started a job as a personal trainer at Smeaton Grange’s Hi-IQ Training – which opened last Saturday.
However, five months ago, finding a job was the furthest thing from his mind.
Just leaving his bedroom presented a daunting challenge.
“Physically and emotionally I was struggling for a bit,” he said.
“I hid in my room for two or three weeks. I was ashamed and embarrassed of what I did.
“The hardest thing was going home and telling my family about what happened.
“I was bought up in a family where my parents were pretty strict on me and my brothers. They taught you to love your brothers and sisters, be kind and show respect to everyone.
“So to do what I did, they were pretty devastated because it’s not how they brought me up.”
His new job, however has given him a new – and unfamiliar – outlook on life.
“It’s different because straight after school I signed a full-time contract with the Tigers,” he said.
“Playing footy didn’t really feel like work. You go to training, see your best mates, do what you do and love what you do. I feel like a baby getting to know how to work again.
“I’m starting from the bottom and it’s going good so far.
“I’ve moved on and I’m staying positive.”
Hi-IQ Training owner Marin Radovnikovic said Simona’s attitude had been “awesome” and he’d already been embraced by members.
“The work ethic he had at football has carried over into his work life,” he said.
“I was speaking to a member yesterday and she said ‘if a bunch of other people had to tell stories about what they were doing at 24-25 years of age, they wouldn’t be very happy with it either’.”