New Vodafone Warriors recruit Ben Murdoch-Masila credits wife Roxette and the Super League for enabling him to fall in love with rugby league again.
The powerhouse Mate Ma’a Tonga international readily concedes his attitude towards the game and his passion to continue playing had dwindled by the time he finished his initial stint in the NRL.
After making his debut with the Wests Tigers in 2010, he moved to Penrith in 2014 before leaving the NRL behind to join the Salford Red Devils in England.
“It was hard for me in 2013 losing a best friend (Tigers teammate and fellow New Zealander Mosese Fotuaika) who committed suicide,” he told Vodafone Warriors TV.
“I was in a downward spiral from there and the Tigers actually released me.
“I went to the Penrith Panthers for a year and half but I just couldn’t kick on from that. I was being a kid and doing stupid stuff.
“My wife was pregnant at the time as well and there were too many things going on and I just didn’t know how to take it back then.
“I really had to go to the UK to find myself and reinvent myself as a rugby league player and a person.”
Murdoch-Masila doesn’t have to look far for his saviour.
“My wife is the hero 100 per cent for getting me through it. She stayed rock solid with me.”
The long-time partners were married in Warrington in 2019 alongside their daughter Acacia-Rose, family members and teammates.
Roxette's "a bit sporty as well." She captained Warrington’s first professional women’s Super League team.
Indeed the couple created history by becoming the first married couple to play for a Super League club when Ben came off the bench for the Wolves in their clash against the London Broncos while Roxy appeared in the club’s debut match against Barrow.
“There wasn’t a lot of pressure when I went over there and the change of scenery and the people I hung around with brought the best out in me,” said Murdoch-Masila.
“I just fell in love with the game again and it showed in the footy I was playing.”
He scored more than 40 tries in almost 130 appearances for Salford and Warrington - and was a Challenge Cup winner with the Wolves in 2019 - but the calling from home and the desire to play in the NRL again was irresistible when the Vodafone Warriors courted him with a three-year deal.
“I wanted to test myself in the NRL again and see if I could give it a good crack,” he said.
“A lot has changed since I was last here. The speed of the trainings is intense and the attention to detail is something else but it’s good to get back into this routine.
“I look around at the squad we have and it’s scary. We’ve got a big squad and it’s all exciting.”
He was the last of the Vodafone Warriors’ seven new signings to return to training, doing so when the complete squad came together from Auckland and Kiama to start a four-week camp in Tamworth on January 3.
He was in Covid-19 quarantine with his family late last year – including Christmas Day – but had been kept busy with gym equipment and a training schedule the Vodafone Warriors had waiting in his hotel room as a welcome back present.
Now he’s making up for lost time as he works towards resuming his NRL career more than six and a half years after his 58th and last first-grade appearance for Penrith in a finals loss to Canterbury-Bankstown on September 27.