Josh Reynolds has seen and accomplished nearly all the things rugby league has to supply.
He achieved each child’s dream when he made his NRL debut for the membership he grew up supporting.
He’s performed in two grand finals, received a State of Origin sequence, signed big-money offers and lived within the UK for 2 years.
He may even get a fairytale end after returning to the place it began.
But ask Reynolds if he has any regrets about his vibrant 12-year profession? He solely has one.
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“I regret leaving here, I do,” Reynolds instructed foxsports.com.au at Bulldogs headquarters.
“Even though financially it was good for me, I would have loved to be a one-club man — it meant a lot to me back then… That’s probably my only regret.”
Reynolds was — and is as soon as once more — the guts and soul of the Bulldogs. He earned his stripes within the membership’s decrease grades earlier than debuting in 2011 and happening to play 138 NRL video games over seven seasons with the membership.
Everyone knew of his love for the Bulldogs. That’s why 1000’s of hearts broke when he signed a four-year take care of the Wests Tigers.
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THE HEARTBREAKING EXIT
It takes a particular particular person to be nonetheless adored by followers even after signing with a rival membership.
The Bulldogs trustworthy swarmed Reynolds after his closing recreation at Belmore Sports Ground in 2017.
He declared after the sport: “I swear to God, I will never forget this day.”
And the enduring photographs of him being carried off by teammates will be sure that of that.
Reynolds’ contract negotiations have been an enormous story throughout that season. The Tigers chased him onerous with a suggestion near $3 million over 4 years and the Bulldogs couldn’t — or didn’t need to — match it.
James Graham provided to take a pay lower if it meant the star five-eighth may keep. But Reynolds was suggested by the membership to take care of himself and take the Tigers deal.
Reynolds signed in April and three months later Kieran Foran signed a multimillion-dollar take care of the Bulldogs.
“I don’t think I was in the plans,” Reynolds conceded whereas reflecting on his exit.
“That hurts sometimes so I think your pride gets in the way a bit, you get a great offer from somewhere else… Anyone wants to feel wanted in any industry, right?”
Reynolds is the primary to confess he didn’t meet expectations on the Tigers. Hamstring and shoulder accidents marred his first season with the membership and he began his second season in reserve grade.
He performed simply 22 NRL video games over three seasons earlier than getting an early launch to signal with Super League membership Hull FC.
Reynolds took the identical vitality that the Dogs followers liked him for to his new golf equipment however issues simply by no means clicked like they did again in Belmore.
“Now I think back, it was never the same,” he mentioned.
“I tried my hardest to make it the same, it’s not like I didn’t try to buy into everything — I did. I’ve always tried everywhere I’ve gone, it just hasn’t worked out the way I wanted it to.”
But as a lot as he regrets leaving the Bulldogs, there’s a silver lining that he’s grateful for.
“I’m glad I went over to the UK, I’m glad I got to see that. But I would have loved to have stayed (at the Bulldogs), whatever capacity that was,” Reynolds mentioned.
“But at the same time, I’m able to eventually have a family and provide for them so is it a regret? A little one but in the end, in 10 years I’ll probably be like ‘whatever is meant to be, is meant to be’.”
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RETURNING TO ‘THE AREA’
Before Reynolds may return to the Bulldogs he wanted to return dwelling to Belmore.
He touched down in Australia and moved in along with his mum a few five-minute stroll from Bulldogs HQ.
It’s the identical place he lived final time he was signed with the membership.
He might have been gone for 5 years, however the Belmore residents have been by no means going to overlook him.
“It was so weird… But then again nothing changes,” Reynolds laughed when recalling his first stroll down Burwood Road.
“It’s the same people. It just felt nice to be home. There’s no other club like it — I’ll say that easily.
“That’s what I say to the boys, when I did do that first speech I said ‘embrace it while you’re here because if you have to leave you’ll realise what you’re missing out on.’
“It’s the best place and I’m glad it feels like that for me because I was a bit nervous at the start if it was going to feel the same but I’m probably (feeling it) tenfold now.
“That’s been a big thing, (new coach) Cam’s really big on — the area and what the area is about and the culture. I always say to the boys, ‘just give to the area and they’ll give back in thousands’.”
Reynolds’ love for the Bulldogs is unmatched. On a Friday afternoon after already finishing a number of different commitments, he was nonetheless blissful to speak for half an hour.
Because it simply felt “easy.”
“There’s a line but at the same time I would have never said I love the Tigers or I love Hull,” Reynolds mentioned.
“But that’s OK too. It doesn’t mean I can’t buy into everything and appreciate what they’ve done for me.
“It’s so easy to talk about the Bulldogs, it’s easy for me to do interviews and pump the club’s tyres up because I’m only saying what I’ve seen, heard and done… But at the Tigers I was new.
“This is what I love so much, there’s not many people that grew up here in Belmore and played as a junior — I used to play grand finals on Belmore Sports Ground and sneak on there — that itself is a unique thing. I like to think it’s a big thing.”
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…AND THEN THE BULLDOGS
Reynolds had truly tried to return to the membership “a few times” earlier than this homecoming.
He confirmed there was a chance when Dean Pay was on the helm, however “it just fell through.”
This time although it was a now or by no means state of affairs as a result of if it didn’t work out, he most likely would have retired.
“I was over in England and decided I was going to come back. I was probably 80/20 that I was going to retire — I was pretty much done,” Reynolds revealed.
“I sort of had in my head the only reason I’d play again is to come back here. I even said to the boys on my first day ‘if this doesn’t work out for me I’m done because this is the only place I want to be.’
“I had a bit of a think about it and spoke to my manager but went ‘you know what I’m going to message Gus (Gould) myself.’ I think at the age I’m at, sending him a message man to man… I don’t need to hide behind my manager.”
Gould appreciated Reynolds’ strategy however was cautious a few man in his 30s making an attempt to make a return after two years within the Super League.
“Gus was like ‘are you sure mate?’ Because I think he was just trying to look after me, he said ‘a few players have come back from England at your age and they’re just not up to it,’ which is fine, he said ‘age gets you’ — that’s exactly what he said,” Reynolds recalled.
“That’s so true but at the same I knew for myself I still had that little fire.
“I was probably not in a good head space towards footy when I finished because I didn’t finish at the Tigers great, going over to Hull it wasn’t great footy wise — I enjoyed it but I just had a bit of a sour feeling about footy.
“I just thought I don’t want to finish like that because it’s given me so much and I used to love it.
“When Gus said he was happy to give me a train-and-trial, that’s when it all sunk in.”
THE MOST ‘SURREAL’ MOMENT
Reynolds did sufficient over the summer season to show he nonetheless has what it takes to play NRL and so he was upgraded to a Top 30 contract.
It didn’t take lengthy for the video of Cameron Ciraldo telling the enjoying group to go viral.
The room erupted as his teammates gathered round him in what was a becoming celebration after an intense three months.
“It’s probably mentally — physically as well — the toughest 12 weeks I’ve ever had because I’ve always been fairly lucky contract-wise,” Reynolds mentioned.
“I was here five or six years, then got lucky with the Tigers, then even though I didn’t really fire there I went over to England but this was training to get a spot.
“It’s sort of like when you’re young trying to crack it.”
He admitted there “were some hard days” and he had “a bit of self-doubt” as a result of a hamstring damage that set him again a few weeks.
But he remained “grateful to be back within these walls” and to be given a chance.
“I’m pretty proud of myself because I had some days where I thought ‘is it all worth it?’ because you just don’t know, but now it’s still a bit surreal to be honest,” Reynolds mentioned.
“I’ve always had this place in my heart.
“I also want to help get the club back to where it deserves to be and this is no crack at the boys that have been here but they say themselves it hasn’t been Bulldogs football so for me to try and change that in any way I can — that’s what I’ll try my best to do.”
Several former teammates have reached out to congratulate Reynolds, whereas one particular Bulldogs determine who’s seen all of it was there with him the second he acquired the great news.
“Freddy Ciraldo, who’s been here for 30-odd years, I look at him like a father figure. He looked after me and would give me extra gear when I was younger — he was actually in the sheds when I got told and it was just a special moment,” Reynolds mentioned.
“It’s giving me shivers thinking about it. It means a lot to me, but it’s nice to know it means a lot to other people too.”
Part of the improve meant he moved sheds at Belmore to be with the remainder of the Top 30.
But Reynolds didn’t thoughts being within the outdated sheds — he has some particular reminiscences in there.
“The NSW Cup boys are in our old lockers, where we (the NRL side) were back in the day so I was in my old locker but now I’ve moved into the boujees,” he laughed.
“The first day I got here, there’s a plaque with my name on the locker and one of the Cup boys was sitting in it. He looked and went ‘oh, do you want it?’ and the boys were like ‘get out, get out,’ but I said ‘nah bro, you stay there.’
“It was cool to be in there, because for me that was a special locker.
“Cam (Ciraldo) said ‘mate, hopefully eventually you get the other locker’ but I actually loved it, it brought back memories.
“Even just being with the boys that are on the fringe and are fighting so hard, I loved it because we were all in the same boat.
“It was good to have that feeling of ‘I have to earn everything’. I didn’t want to come back here and go off what I’d done.
“I don’t really care what I’ve done, I want to earn respect in this squad.”
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THE ‘BIG CALL’ THAT WILL STUN DOGS FANS
The final time the membership was profitable was across the 2012-2015 interval — and Reynolds performed a key position in that.
Foxsports.com.au requested how far off this present squad is from that degree and whereas Reynolds conceded there’s nonetheless “a lot of work to do on the field” he made a shocking revelation.
“It’s a good question because I’d like to say… there’s a lot of ways to look at it,” he mentioned earlier than pausing.
“For me, the way I look at a team is how close they are. I’ve been a part of heaps of teams and this is the closest group I’ve ever been a part of and that’s a big call because our old crew, a good core of us were together for five or six years — probably like 12 blokes and that’s rare.”
Those who have been across the membership throughout that period will agree that it’s certainly an enormous name.
The likes of James Graham, Josh Morris, Trent Hodkinson and Reynolds have been inseparable.
Reynolds is even the godfather to Michael Ennis’ daughter.
“There’s just something about this group,” Reynolds mentioned concerning the 2023 squad.
“They’re young, they’re energetic, they buy into everything. I’ve never seen a group of guys cheer about fitness and that’s weird — that’s just the head space that the boys are in at the moment.
“I take my hat off to ‘Ciro’ and everyone behind the scenes because they help. They make things very special, they make occasions special. What they did for my Top 30 thing with the boys cheering, it’s something I’ll remember forever.
“It’s definitely heading in the right direction. On the field there’s a lot of work to do, but only because we’re a new squad, but gee there’s some real leaders in this squad.
“We want to win but not be spectacular. We want to be that team that everyone goes ‘we’ve got the Bulldogs this week, it’s going to be a tough game’.”
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Reynolds will kick off his second chapter with the Bulldogs on Sunday in a trial in opposition to the Raiders.
But as for his long-term future? There’s no expiry date for now.
“I was speaking to ‘Ciro’ about it and he was like ‘don’t put a cap on anything’ so I’ll just go with the flow. It’s a bit of a cliche but I’m honestly enjoying every day in case it is the last,” he mentioned.
“I get asked ‘do you want to play Round 1?’ and I’m like ‘of course,’ but I’m not even thinking about that.
“Look what’s going on right now. I’ve been lucky enough to train with them, great things are happening around me, I’m doing everything as if I am trying to play Round 1 but it is very different now to when I was younger.
“Everyone fights for spots, but at the same time there’s a little less pressure. I suppose the last couple of contracts I’ve signed (they’ve come with big expectations).
“But now, I love it. Whatever my role is I’m just going to do it. Whether that’s playing, not playing, or playing reserve grade — that’s just my role and I’m happy to do it…
“But only because I’m at this place.”
Source web site: www.foxsports.com.au