2013 may always be seen as a blessing in disguise for Cameron Ciraldo, who in the space of two seasons has gone from playing in the NRL to being awarded the 2015 Holden Cup Coach of the Year.
A spate of injuries restricted Ciraldo to just 11 games that particular season – his last in the NRL – but it also presented him with the opportunity to help mentor the club's SG Ball team after being offered the opportunity by former New Zealand international Mark Horo.
When Penrith didn't offer him a contract to play on into last year Ciraldo jumped into a coaching capacity at the club..
The advantageous thing about his time helping the Penrith's Under 18s is that most of that very team are the ones who Ciraldo is coaching today, a team which won this season's minor premiership and await the winner of the Broncos' clash with the Warriors to see who they face in the preliminary finals.
"It's been a really fun year so far and I've been very lucky with the group of boys I've been coaching. I've known the majority of my kids in the NYC now for probably three years so I was very lucky Mark Horo back then invited me down to come to training," Ciraldo told NRL.com.
"I've learnt a lot over the two years since I finished playing. I'm very blessed to be at a good club like Penrith where you have some good mentors there. Ivan Cleary and his first grade staff have been really good for me.
"Having Phil Gould there as well is always nice – I can bounce anything off him at any time. So I'm very lucky to be in that position. But it's funny I always thought I'd like to give [coaching a] go but in local league and not so much the opportunity I have been given."
While his minor premiership-winning team only had one player in the Holden Cup Team of the Year in fullback Brent Naden, Ciraldo was happy for the 20-year-old Wellington Cowboys junior – who produced 104 metres and two tackle breaks in Penrith's 44-24 win over Manly last Saturday.
"I'm stoked for Brent. He's a very good player but an even better person. I think he was a bit shocked," Ciraldo said.
"I don't know if he believes in himself as much as he should but he really deserves to be in the Team of the Year around that quality of player and hopefully it spurs him on to bigger and better things now."
Away from coaching Ciraldo is studying a Diploma of Business.
"It's hard with the family life as well because I have four kids at home so it is a challenge and I'm not doing it as quickly as I'd like but I know I need to have something there to fall back on," Ciraldo said.
"I'm very realistic that just like playing this job isn't going to last forever so I need something to back me up there and be able to focus on something other than football."
This article first appeared on nrl.com