Darius Boyd became synonymous with a prickly demeanour when dealing with the press during stints with St George Illawarra and Newcastle, a couple of his more notorious tight-lipped, curt performances in front of the microphone drawing unwanted attention and widespread derision.
But after the most harrowing season of his career – including dealing with best mate Alex McKinnon’s tragic neck injury, a drunken hotel-room incident involving his wife, and a stint in rehab to treat depression, prematurely ending his year with the Knights – the representative star finally appears comfortable in his own skin following his return to the Brisbane Broncos.
Boyd joked with the packed press conference, surprising all and sundry – most of whom had been on the end his icy responses at one stage or another – with his honesty, humility and sincerity, while exuding a happy and contented air that we’ve virtually never seen away from the football field.
His difficult upbringing has been widely publicised, but the veteran of 17 Tests for Australia and 20 Origins for Queensland has bridged some wide and painful chasms in his personal and family life; it appears to have turned Boyd’s life around.
As a 19-year-old winger, Boyd was a rookie-season premiership-winner with the Broncos in 2006, but left the club two years later, following coach Wayne Bennett to the Dragons – where further grand final glory awaited – and then the Knights.
Bennett’s earth-shattering return to Brisbane in 2015 made it a fait accompli that Boyd would come back as well, despite the glut of fullback talent already at the club. The supercoach jettisoned Josh Hoffman and Ben Barba, and declared star Canberra recruit Anthony Milford would be his five-eighth – but it appears Boyd will be the best No.1 fit for the Broncos regardless of Bennett’s biases.
Boyd’s new outlook is not only an enormous relief for him personally, but it could also reinvigorate his football. A phenomenally consistent representative performer, the 27-year-old’s form at club level has been gradually waning, producing his best only in patches since scooping the Clive Churchill Medal, and the Dally M and RLIF Fullback of the Year gongs during the Saints’ 2010 premiership season.
It is also a huge boon for the Broncos. A year ago the make-up of their key positions was a shambles; now they have new Test rep Ben Hunt and the electrifying Milford in the halves, and a reborn Boyd at fullback.
Look for Boyd to take on a leadership role within the squad, while also returning to his status as one of the NRL’s most influential backline guns, and – based on what we saw at the Red Hill presser today – becoming the most unlikely media darling of all time.
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