THE DAILY grind of the garlic bread factory is a far cry from playing in front of 100,000 people on Grand Final day and it's just one of many contrasting chapters in a "weird journey" for Collingwood forward Josh Thomas.
In this week's episode of In The Game with Damian Barrett podcast on AFL.com.au, Thomas opens up on a deeper enjoyment of his life in football following a two-year ban for testing positive to banned substance clenbuterol in March, 2015.
Before navigating his way back from the abyss, the 27-year-old had to accept the reality of his situation and find a new source of income. Many players have experienced a spray during their football careers, but perhaps not the kind that Thomas endured during his time away from the game.
"I ended up getting this job at a garlic bread factory, turned out it was tough. It was just on a line, the garlic bread comes out and (you) get sprayed with the garlic," Thomas said.
"It was hard work, low pay, in a factory, no sunlight. It was quite eye-opening and I don't really like talking about it because I feel like, gees, that's a reality for a lot of people and it feels a bit precious."
Thomas has played every game since he returned in round 15, 2017 and kicked 38 goals to be an influential part of the 'Swoop Squad' that helped propel Collingwood from 13th to grand finalists in 2018. The lessons learned from his exit and re-entry to football has fast-tracked his maturity and provided a fresh perspective.
"It's all well and good to say you appreciate playing footy but it probably does sometimes take that massive contrast or an experience like that to fully sink in," he said.