TODD Carney has finally put his sordid past behind him and is ready to make an NRL return, according to the man who stands to lose out most if he does.
A report from the Daily Telegraph has revealed that Carney is being closely monitored by Manly coach Trent Barrett after the controversial former Dally M winner's return to Australia following three years in the English Super League.
Rejected by the Raiders after making an approach to come back to his former club in 2018, Carney subsequently signed a three-year deal to play for Cairns-based Intrust Super Cup club Northern Pride but if Manly's interest is genuine he may never pull on a Pride jersey.
It's a possibility that Pride coach and former Cowboys winger Ty Williams has already come to terms with and says Carney's burning desire to play NRL again was the first question he asked the one-time Kangaroo.
"I think he'd be ready for it," Williams told foxsports.com.au when asked if Carney could play NRL in 2018.
"The training intensity will lift another level but you can tell with the stuff that he does at training that he's still a class above some of our guys.
"I think he's ready to make that step up.
"I told him I'd do everything possible to get him physically and mentally hopefully back into that arena.
"The couple of weeks that he's been training his focus has been good and if he does go down there then we've done our bit to hopefully get him back in."
An NRL spokesman confirmed that before Carney plays in the NRL again "any club seeking to register him would need to demonstrate that he is fit and proper to be part of the NRL".
Since having his contract torn up at the Sharks more than three years ago Carney has played 50 Super League games for Catalans and then Salford this year but Williams believes NRL clubs may yet adopt a cautious approach and wait until after the season has started before making a play for the controversial half.
"It's hard to judge because he hasn't played any footy yet and personally that's what I think a lot of NRL clubs will be waiting on," said Williams, who played 151 games for the Cowboys and made three Origin appearances for Queensland.
"If the first month at ISC level next year, if Todd Carney is going very well then I think that's when the NRL teams will think about getting another half to back up what they've got.
"He's working really hard, he's doing everything away from football right to get himself physically ready.
"You can't patch up what's happened (in the past) but I think when he does finish he wants to leave his mark and make it a good one."
WHY CARNEY DESERVES A RECALL
Todd Carney's rap sheet is long and embarrassing.
It's one that his mother has no doubt shaken her head at each time a new scandal has been added and it's one that has seen him twice given a suspended jail sentence but never spent a night behind bars.
Drink driving and other driving offences are serious matters not to be made light of but Carney's ostracising from the NRL following the infamous 'bubbler' incident whilst at the Sharks in 2014 was the tipping point to a growing list of undisclosed misbehaviours during his time at the club.
It's been in Carney's DNA since he arrived on the scene as a prodigiously talented 18-year-old at the Raiders in 2004, a cheeky halfback in the mould of some of the great playmakers the game has seen who would misplace his moral compass after a few beers.
They're the type of indiscretions that can be overlooked in isolation but if the player shows no sign of changing his ways eventually it impacts not only his own form but the performance of the team around him.
There are players feted in the NRL who have committed more serious crimes than Carney; it's time to let him back in.
HOW CARNEY FITS INTO THE MANLY MOULD
As reported by foxsports.com.au earlier this week Manly are the big losers in the Mitchell Pearce merry-go-round.
The unwanted Roosters half choose Newcastle over both the Sea Eagles and Sharks after Manly allowed Blake Green to leave on a long-term deal with the Warriors, Barrett sending a last-minute letter to Santa for another recognised half.
There are options within to partner Daly Cherry-Evans in the halves including Cameron Cullen, Jackson Hastings and exciting youngsters Lachlan Croker and Tom Wright and there is talk of bringing Trent Hodkinson back to Brookvale.
There's no question though that a focused and committed Todd Carney trumps those options in terms of what he brings to a team and on the surface the balance with Cherry-Evans seems to be there.
Coach Trent Barrett would have the option of assigning one side of the field to each half or adopt a more fluid approach such as the Roosters employed in 2017 and give his two free-running halves license to roam.
Carney's goal-kicking capabilities would also be welcome for a team that finished 14th for goal-kicking percentage in 2017 with just 68 per cent.
HOW WILL BARRETT HANDLE HIM?
It's been shown throughout his career that blanket bans on Carney don't bring the response a coach might hope for but Trent Barrett is the type of person and coach who will treat his players like adults.
Manly would undoubtedly have to work closely with the NRL to set up acceptable behavioural parameters before Carney's return could be green-lit but then it would be up to Carney to stay true to them.
Don't expect Barrett to impose an alcohol ban in order for Carney to be considered for first grade again but unless he has found a way to drink responsibly it might be a commitment he makes himself if he is as desperate to play NRL as he says he is.
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