WHEN Albury-based players were banned from the AFL Riverina Championship, Trent Castles was more than happy to spend more time with family.
But after marking his club debut for Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes with five goals in last week's win over Turvey Park, the key forward has got the desire back.
The 32-year-old has made a career out of kicking 100-plus goals per season in country footy, and blew out the cobwebs with a strong start in wet conditions against the winless Bulldogs.
The challenge and stakes rise again when the Goannas meet fellow 2-1 outfit Wagga Tigers at Mangoplah Sportsground on Saturday, with the winner to have the inside running on a top two spot.
Given he can only play a maximum of four games before finals Castles says he feels the pressure to justify his inclusion in the side, and the big chunk he takes out of the Player Points System.
But before he came in, after the banning of Albury players was quashed just before round two, Castles wanted to make sure he wasn't bending anyone's nose out of shape first.
They rang me wanting me to play Osborne (in round two) and I declined it, I want to at least train for a week," Castles said.
"I don't want to just rock up to a club that I've never been to and take someone's spot, there may be people in the background saying 'who is this guy?'
"I wanted to do the right thing by the guys that have been there, and made it very clear that I didn't want anyone to get shitty or anything if I came in.
"Obviously I've been at footy clubs and coached and have had guys come in from Melbourne. I know what it's like behind the scenes when people say 'who's this bloke who just rocks up on a Thursday and plays?'.
"But none of the boys were concerned, and it was good to kick a few to prove myself. if I didn't get a touch, it would be a bit different."
Despite not playing a match for points in 11 months, Castles said he pulled up well after his debut and is looking to forge a combination with young centre half forward George Kendall, who has impressed him immediately.
"It will be different this week playing the Tigers, I think it will step up a notch or two. I just needed that one game to get it under the belt," he said.
"I'm a bit sore but I feel ready to go. I thought I was going to be a bit underdone and a bit unfit but I actually felt really good considering I hadn't been doing much running.
"I was more than happy to sit out and hang with the family, but now I've played the one game I've got the itch back so I'm really keen to get stuck into it the next few weeks.
"George is a really good player and he's going to be a star. I predominately played out of the square and I thought it worked really well.
"I'm pretty keen to play some dry weather football with them because with two tall marking forwards in myself and George, I don't think too many teams will be able to go with us."
Castles was set to play for Corowa-Rutherglen in the Ovens and Murray League this season before it was cancelled, and ideally intends to return there next season.
"That is my plan, (but) I haven't set anything in stone and it will depend on the new coach," he said.
"I have four kids and the coach was very flexible with that, so that will depend on them.
"I'd never say no (to staying at MCUE). I do like the club and have been blown away by how welcome and comfortable I've felt but it is a lot of travel for me, especially when Narrandera and Griffith come back in."
Castles said he's keen to offer some guidance to MCUE's young forwards during his short stint.
"I've always been like that. I've coached a few years and done a lot of junior stuff as well," he said.
"George's work rate was really good. I've played with a lot of kids but he seemed to stand out, and I did hear a lot of raps about him before I came.
"He takes advice off me which is very rare for kids these days. He wants to learn which will make him a better footballer."