by Jack Brady
NRL.com National Correspondant
Returning Sharks half Chad Townsend has called his two years at the Warriors a blessing, a time where his faithful Cronulla club were plagued by ASADA dramas.
2014 was the year from hell for the Sharks, a season which started with a year's ban to coach Shane Flanagan and culminated with the club winning the dreaded wooden spoon following a devastating run of injuries and ASADA-related suspensions.
At the same time Townsend was busily working towards establishing himself as an NRL player across the ditch, something he achieved after striking up a solid partnership with Kiwis halfback Shaun Johnson in his 41 games at the Warriors.
Harbouring no ill-feelings towards the Sharks for initially letting him to leave, the Yarrawarrah Tigers junior has been blown away since his return by the transition the club has undertaken in such a short period of time.
"It was definitely a good thing for me to be away during those times," Townsend told NRL.com.
"The best way to put it is: in New Zealand you're out of sight, out of mind. While [ASADA's Cronulla investigations] were going on here, I was simply concentrating on footy.
"In saying that the boys did go through a tough time. They have come through that though and the changes the club have made are unbelievable. The club's almost unrecognisable.
"There's a lot more staff, the facilities are a whole lot better and I was actually really shocked when I returned here and how much things have changed for the better. The set up we have here is awesome.
"I never had any hard feelings when I left. It was always about looking to grow as a player and I think I achieved that in leaving."
Putting his hand up to make the Sharks' No.7 jumper his own in 2016 following Jeff Robson's coincidental defection to the Warriors, Townsend believes he is well equipped to take over the reins of last year's semi-finalists.
Crediting Warriors coach Andrew McFadden for his successes in the NRL, Townsend remains indebted to the former Raiders halfback for getting his career on the right track.
"I was never guaranteed anything over [in New Zealand] but I was lucky to earn an opportunity and I worked hard at it. I was lucky to be coached by Andrew McFadden, he helped my game massively," Townsend said.
"I was in good company over there and I think that's why the coaching he gave me, I could relate to a lot – he being a former half.
"He helped me a lot with my running game and was very honest and upfront with what he wanted from me in terms of the game-plan, structure, and how we played. He helped my game tenfold."
Beyond the NRL, it's no secret family rather than football was the impetus behind Townsend's return to Australia, with his partner's mother battling bowel cancer.
Putting things into perspective for the 24-year-old, everything appears positive in the Townsend camp.
"[My mother-in-law] just had a successful operation so she's on the mend now and my missus is very grateful and very happy to be back around living with her. She's a whole lot happier which I guess makes me happier," Townsend said.
"I'm so grateful for the support she has shown me coming over to New Zealand and moving away from her mum. For us to move back and be around her is something I definitely don't take for granted. I'm just happy to be living the life I am at the moment."
* Article first appeared on NRL.com