The first and possibly last 39 minutes of Dwain Chambers' career in rugby league left him battered and bruised but believing that he could yet have a future in the game.
The controversial sprinter survived his baptism in an alien sport in a specially arranged "A" team friendly between Castleford and York. Cas won the match 30-16, but the more telling statistic was that 3,244 people had enough curiosity to come and see him, about 3,000 more than the reserve team average.
What they saw, after the new man's one-month induction, was a desperately raw novice giving it his best shot. He carried the ball five times, broke a couple of tackles in the process, made three tackles, missed three and made a couple of handling errors.
"It was a lot of hard work. I was out of gas every 10 seconds, because that's as far as I normally go," Chambers said. "It was tough and I'm hurting, because I'm not used to getting banged up, but that's something I've got to get used to if I'm going to have a future in the game.
"It was great fun, although I'll never play full-back again. I'll definitely be back and I appreciate people coming down to support me," Chambers said.
After a 15-minute delay to get the queues through the turnstiles, surely a first for a reserve game at The Jungle, Chambers came on to a battery of cameras, and had to be steered towards the bench despite seeming eager to get started from the kick-off.
His wish was granted after 10 minutes and his first spell saw him carry the ball twice, both from a specially designed scrum-base move, getting away from one tackle on the first occasion before being dumped. He also chased a long kick upfield, but missed his tackle before coming off to a generous round of applause.
Chambers returned four minutes before half-time, making a couple of tackles, including one highly creditable one that put his opposite winger into touch, and going on another abortive chase that left him looking absolutely exhausted at the break.
His spells on the field in the second half brought him a couple of salutary experiences, losing the ball after making the best of his runs, making an error from a kick and, by now nursing a sore shoulder, being run over by Mark Applegarth, a player in possession of some Super League experience at Wakefield.
Chambers admitted that his brief experience in the full-back position at the end of the game would be quite sufficient for him.
"But I believe this is just the beginning," he said. "We're at the early stages of deciding where we go from here."
The odds might still be on Castleford quietly dropping the experiment, but the club's football manager, Mick Robinson, said that he would be in favour of extending the trial for a couple more months.
"He's been a delight and I would like to keep him here," said Robinson.Reuse content