Article written by Matt Logue. Courtesy of The Daily Telegraph.
Slaving away pouring bitumen on a Penrith road in the summer sun back in 2018, Pat Hollis thought his NRL dream was over.
Repeated injury setbacks had prompted this promising Panthers junior to leave rugby league, so he wasn’t counting on another shot at the big time.
Hollis quit to join the real world as a road worker for a year.
“The thought of playing in the NRL was non-existent at that point,” Hollis recalls.
“I wasn’t going back to footy – I was done. In my head being a road worker was going to be the next 40 years of my life.”
Flash forward two years and Hollis has received a career reprieve after being upgraded to Penrith’s NRL development list.
In The Bubble: Hollis signs NRL deal
The backrower has been on a train-and-trial contract since November, but the promotion allows him to train with the Panthers’ 32-man NRL squad in accordance with the current protocols.
The turnaround in fortunes comes after three years of hard work, luck, and timing.
“I’m on cloud nine,” he said.
“To be told that I’m in the bubble with a chance to make my NRL debut, it is so cool, but it has been a long journey to get to this point.”
The picture didn’t look so pretty for Hollis back in 2013.
After starting out with Penrith’s SG Ball side and winning an NYC under 20s premiership, heartbreak hit when he suffered his first shoulder injury.
Hollis also let hype as a gifted junior get in the way of the hard work required to succeed.
“Being a talented junior, I thought I was a little bit better than I actually was,” he admitted.
“I was nowhere near putting in the effort that had to. The little things that make a first grader, I never had as a young kid.”
As a result, Hollis only managed sporadic reserve grade appearances at Penrith over the next two years.
With limited chances at the Panthers, he moved north of the border in 2017 to try his luck with the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the Queensland Cup.
He won a premiership with the Falcons before he injured his shoulder again.
“I played busted up there in Queensland and over did it,” he said.
“I remember driving home 12 hours from the Sunshine Coast to Sydney with a bung shoulder.
“I was shattered.”
A heartbroken Hollis returned to Sydney thinking his league career was over.
He briefly worked building roads for a living before his older brother Sam asked him to play with St Marys in the Ron Massey Cup last season.
Hollis’ NRL aspirations were suddenly revitalised with an outstanding campaign.
He was crowned Ron Massey Cup Player of the Year while also earning eight appearances for Panthers in the Canterbury Cup.
Now he is in the Panthers’ squad with a chance to make his NRL debut.
“I turned 27 the other week, so it has taken me a good seven years to realise that hard work is what gets you to the top,” he said.
“I had relied too much on my talent, but hard work beats talent every day of the week.
“The talent is probably 10 percent of what you need to be a first grader, so my message is to work hard and when you think you are done put in a bit more effort.”