THE time for excuses is over. For Parramatta, and for Corey Norman.
The halfback has emerged from the darkness of last season ready to pinch a Queensland State of Origin jumper and lead the Eels back the NRL finals.
On Wednesday a rejuvenated Norman outlined how he will resurrect his reputation after a disastrous 2016 when he was suspended for eight games and fined $20,000 for drug possession, consorting with known criminals and being involved in — and distributing — a sex tape.
And after carving up Manly at Lottoland last Sunday, Norman, 26, is poised to rock rugby league.
“I have learnt from my mistakes,” Norman told The Daily Telegraph.
“I just want to stay on the field, play my best football and see Parramatta playing in the back-end of the year, where we should be playing. That would be awesome. Definitely. Parra playing in the finals, awesome.
“Amongst all our boys, ‘what if’ just isn’t good enough anymore. We need to be playing in the finals.
“(Last year) I definitely let the boys down, my team and coaching staff. No doubt getting to the finals would be a big plus. We need to start playing toward the back-end of the year. If all things go well, hopefully we will be there.
“We definitely have the squad to do it. Last year (missing the finals through salary cap rorting) was a bit disappointing but that’s the way it went.
“Every week, the boys still turned up and played for the club, coaching staff and for ourselves. We didn’t throw-in the towel. We have now started building nicely and last Sunday, you could tell we still have that resilience there.”
Norman looks back on last season with enormous regret.
“Last year, I made a few mistakes. A few wrong decisions but I wouldn’t say my head space was in the wrong place. I just made a few mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how you learn from it. I have learnt my mistakes and I’m moving forward,” Norman said.
“You know, I made those mistakes and I didn’t want to depend on too many other people too much. I wanted to sort it out myself. But I definitely had a strong support base at the club, the boys and obviously my family.
“When I was going through all that, I didn’t really read the papers or watch the news. If you tend to read-up or watch the TV, it can get to you. I stuck positive. It’s how you bounce back and learn from it.”
And bounce back Norman has.
Queensland coach Kevin Walters will consider Norman for a bench utility spot along with Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans and North Queensland’s Michael Morgan.
“Origin is the pinnacle of our game and to play for Queensland would be unreal,’’ Norman said. “If the opportunity comes up, it comes up. But my job is to win games for Parramatta and play good footy. That’s my focus. I want to let my football do the talking.”
Norman was hunting a Dally M Medal last season before being suspended. It has given him more motivation.
“Yeah mate, that (a Dally M Medal) would be good,” Norman said. “But I’m not focused too much on that. If I prepare right and play good football every week, that will sort itself out. When your team is going well, that makes it a lot easier. I want to get my job right for the Eels, steer the boys around and win games for the Eels.”
Norman’s kicking game was sublime against Manly, particularly given he hadn’t played an NRL game since round 18 last year.
“I have a good, solid pre-season under my belt. But since round 18, I haven’t had that game fitness. I didn’t trial at all. The Nines doesn’t really count because you’re not out there long enough,” he said.
“No matter how hard training is, nothing can compare to game fitness. It will take a couple of games.”