Rookie St George Illawarra playmaker Adam Clune believes an off-season stint volunteering in a remote African village has helped prepare him for his first year as a full-time NRL player.
Clune, who was the 2019 Canterbury Cup halfback of the year after helping the Dragons to the minor premiership, was offered a development contract with the club before travelling to Kenya in mid-October with his partner Bianca O'Neill.
The couple spent three weeks in the western Kenyan village of Yala, which is 42 kilometres from the country's third largest city Kisumu, with Bianca volunteering as a nurse for World Youth International and Clune performing a teacher's aide role.
"We had always wanted to volunteer and Bianca got the opportunity through her work, she saw a program in Kenya and I was able to go with her," Clune said. "It made it a bit easier going with someone I knew, especially going outside my comfort zone, which is something I want to get better at.
"It was a great experience and really different. The place we were in was quite remote, you don't see many cars on the road and people don't have much money.
"The way they live was a real eye-opener. There would be a shop and they just build their house or their clay hut behind the shops. There are a lot of clay huts, they are about five-by-five [metres] with tin doors and six-to-10 people living in them."
Having completed a law and finance degree at University of Wollongong in July, Clune works part-time for the RLPA and the 24-year-old said he enjoyed teaching students at the school in Yala about Australia.
"It was after their exam time so it was a bit different than I thought it would be," he said. "We did an Australian education lesson where they asked questions and we played games.
"There is a great disparity between how we live and how they live in what is obviously a developing country and we donated a fair bit of stuff to the school.
"The people were very friendly – all the Kenyans we met – and that was one of my favourite things about the trip. Everyone would say 'hello, how are you', and because you don't have a car you have to walk everywhere and there are always a lot of people on the streets.
"It was awesome to spend some time over there, it was a great experience and something I will never forget so I am really thankful for the opportunity. It was really eye-opening."
After arriving back home on November 9, Clune reported for the start of pre-season training at WIN Stadium less than 36 hours later and is now focused on making his NRL debut.
An Albion Park junior, he has been in the Dragons system since 2015 and last season produced 28 try assists in 22 Canterbury Cup appearances.
"The last few years I have been part-time and combined footy with work and uni, which is great because I have been able to keep my mind busy but to be able to just focus on footy and make that my priority is a great opportunity," Clune said.
"If there is an opportunity that comes up in the halves I will be looking take it and my goal is to debut in 2020. That's why you train, that's why you play.
"My focus is to get fitter, faster, stronger and improve each day. There are a lot of experienced players here – especially in the halves, with Corey Norman and Ben Hunt – and I will be looking to learn as much as I can off them and the coaching staff."