KAYNE Lawton has spent the past five weeks on the sidelines – a place he’s all too familiar with.
A short jab at the French Federation of Rugby League’s scheduling aside, he’s not complaining.
He’s fully fit and eager to tackle St Esteve XIII Catalans in Saturday afternoon’s Elite 1 semi-final at Foix, with a place in the grand final in a fortnight on the line.
It’s a massive turnaround for the former Gold Coast Titans halfback who fell out of love with rugby league during five injury-riddled seasons in the NRL.
“I’ve definitely got the love back. I haven’t had the love for the game since when I probably finished playing in the NRL in 2012,” he said.
“I feel like an 18-year-old again. Mentally it freshened me up and the break was definitely what I needed because I’ve never wanted to play footy as much as I do now.”
Wind the clock back three years and Lawton’s feelings towards rugby league were the complete opposite.
A Titans junior, Lawton made his NRL debut in 2009 for his hometown club and played six more matches before joining the Sea Eagles ahead of the 2013 NRL season.
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He enjoyed training, however he lacked the motivation to play on the weekends. He’d lost the love.
Setback after setback saw the now 26-year-old spend more time on the sidelines than on the field.
It all became too much and Lawton decided to give rugby league away.
“I had a lot of injuries and I just got to a point where I just wasn’t even getting excited to play anymore,” Lawton said.
“I always said that when I got to that point I’d keep going for a bit and see if I could get the love back, but if I didn’t I wasn’t going to hang around and stay in front of another bloke who is hungrier to play, and stay around and take money.
“It’s not something I ever wanted to do. I still had a year on my contract at Manly and I just said, ‘That’s it, I’m done.’
“I just made the decision and I’ve never looked back. I still don’t regret it. It’s what I wanted at the time and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”
The constant battle with shoulder and hamstring injuries saw his love of rugby league turn to resentment.
“If I finish here and go back home I’d like to maybe give it another crack (in the NRL). I’ll just take it as it comes.” – Kayne Lawton
While he was still enjoying the training, the thrill of playing on the weekend had disappeared.
“There was a stage where I just didn’t even want to play. I’d rock up to games and just feel nothing,” Lawton said.
“I enjoyed the training but for some reason (that’s how I felt about playing).
“I still don’t know. I was worn out, I think. Definitely having the three-year break has made me feel better about it. That’s probably been the hardest thing about the past five weeks.
“I’m loving footy and it’s what I’m looking forward to every weekend and I don’t get to play it so it’s been very hard.”
During his time working out in the gym at the Titans and the Sea Eagles while recovering from injury Lawton developed a passion for weights training, bodybuilding and dieting.
He turned that passion into an online business, Kayne Lawton Physique, where he provides meal plans and training plans to help others reach their goals.
Playing rugby league for Carcassonne has allowed him to spend time on his business, and tend to the nearly 60,000 followers he has across his social media channels.
While his teammates are enjoying long lunches and short coffees, Lawton is busy helping transform those people who are following his personalised plans, and ensuring the business keeps ticking over.
“I’m always busy working on the computer. (My teammates are) always wondering what I’m doing when I’m not catching up with them,” said Lawton, whose girlfriend Jamie runs successful Australian-made bikini company, Jaymes Swimwear.
“When the boys want to do stuff and I know I’ve got to go home and do a meal plan or design a training plan or respond to emails, there’s a little voice in your head saying it can wait but you know the client comes first.
“I stay motivated and try and get it done. The hardest thing with having your own business is if you don’t do it no one else will.”
His diet plans have been developed through a combination of personal experience, the experience of others, and study. Lawton has a Certificate III and IV in Fitness and has been trialling different diets since he started bodybuilding.
“Through it all I’ve just realised that there are certain ways you can do things without having to starve yourself or put yourself through duress by sticking to an unhealthy meal plan,” he said.
“I’ve found ways that you can still make it a lifestyle and get results so I thought I’d share that with people and help them get into shape.
“You don’t have to do massive amounts of cardio to lose the fat – when I was competing I didn’t do any running at all it was just eating specific macro-nutrients and making sure I trained hard in the gym.”
While it’s smooth sailing at the moment, it wasn’t exactly an easy transition back into rugby league for Lawton.
He arrived at Carcassonne in October, was immediately thrust into his first match in more than three years and paid the price.
He strained his hamstring inside the opening 20 minutes of his first match for Carcassonne and was sidelined for a month.
In his return match six weeks later he strained his other hamstring forcing him off the field once again.
Ever the optimist, Lawton believes his time recovering allowed him to better prepare his body for the rigours of rugby league.
“The injuries gave me the time to get on the front foot and avoid those type of injuries in the future, and touch wood, it’s been good so far,” he said.
“I didn’t run at all for three years, I just did weights and I gained all this size.
“There would’ve been muscle imbalances throughout my body. Even though I was doing a lot of leg weights I wasn’t doing the smaller muscle groups, and the functional groups that are specific to moving.
“Playing rugby league you’ve got to obviously be good laterally, be explosive from take-offs and have speed and I didn’t do any of that for three years and I came back and had to learn the hard way.”
His younger brother Karl is currently signed with the Gold Coast Titans and playing in the Intrust Super Cup for Tweed Heads Seagulls.
Lawton would like to stay in France for another season but the lure of playing alongside his brother and breaking back into the NRL has crossed his mind.
“In terms of getting back into the NRL, if I stay here it’s probably not something I’m set on,” Lawton said.
“If I finish here and go back home I’d like to maybe give it another crack. I’ll just take it as it comes.”