Four and a half years ago, Ryan Tandy was on top of the world.
He had just played in Melbourne’s NRL grand final-winning side in 2009.
On Monday at about 2pm, the disgraced former forward was found dead from a drug overdose at his parents’ home at Saratoga on the NSW Central Coast.
News of the match-fixer’s death shocked former teammates and opponents with tributes posted on social media for the NRL journeyman.
“I am just numb. Just numb,” former Storm and Bulldogs teammate Steve Turner told AAP.
“He was just such a likeable character, the life of the party. A bit of a joker and just someone we all liked to have around.
“We played in the 2009 premiership team and then when they asked about him coming up to the `Dogs, I was all for it.
“It is just sad that he might be remembered for all the wrong reasons.”
Tandy, who had a gambling problem, left Melbourne for the Bulldogs during the 2010 season only months after winning the NRL premiership which was later stripped from the Storm for salary cap breaches.
His life started to spiral out of control not long afterwards.
Early in a match between the Bulldogs and North Queensland in August 2010, he dropped the ball and then deliberately gave away a penalty in front of his team’s posts.
He was found to have placed bets on the Cowboys scoring the first points of the match with a penalty goal.
Tandy was banned for life from the NRL for match-fixing.
He returned to rugby league for French club Pia Donkeys in 2012 despite calls for his registration to be cancelled.
Earlier this year, he was again in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Tandy was accused of being the “hired muscle” in the kidnapping of a man in January on the NSW Central Coast over a drug debt worth tens of thousands of dollars.
He had been due in court next month.
Turner said he had drifted apart from Tandy in the past few years.
“He had his issues away from the field over the past three or four years and they look like they have caught up with him. It is just sad,” Turner said.
“We talk about mental health issues in professional sport.
“I wonder if in rugby league we are doing enough to support our players.”
Tandy played 36 NRL matches for St George Illawarra, South Sydney, Wests Tigers, Melbourne and Canterbury from 2003 to 2010.
He also played for five clubs in England and represented Ireland at the 2008 World Cup.
Police said the death was not being treated as suspicious.
* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.