Two NRL seasons away from family and friends in New Zealand has given Isaiah Papali'i the clarity he needed to take his NRL game to a new level at Parramatta.
In 2020 he was based in Australia with the Warriors and again he's away from his family and partner, professional netballer Elle Temu, who is based in Auckland.
After joining the Eels at the start of the season, Papali'i has quickly become not only a fan favourite but a special player to Brad Arthur.
The coach has widely praised the professionalism of the young forward and Papali'i said he's just starting to learn the importance of extras.
"In previous years I thought I could just turn up to training and do my work there, but it's kind of the hour before you get out there that really counts. It's been working," he said ahead of Friday's Anzac Round clash with Brisbane in Darwin.
"Just even being over here I don't want to waste my time being away from family and not being at home.
"I'm just trying to put my best foot forward and make the most of my footy career, because it goes by pretty fast."
The 22-year-old spent four seasons at the Warriors and found himself plateauing, needing a change of club and culture to switch his mindset.
"It was the best move for me, I'd spent four years there and I found myself plateauing and I wanted to get out of that comfort zone of being at home and find my feet and see how it went," he said.
"I wanted more involvement in the game where I had the ball in my hands a bit more and I wanted to just contribute more."
Signing with Parramatta for this season was a tough conversation to have with Temu, but as an athlete herself she was supportive of his decision - even if it meant more long-distance for the young couple.
"It was pretty tough because she signed in Auckland first so we kind of knew we're going to have to do long distance," he said.
"But it helped her being a sportsperson too and she supported my decision 100 per cent and knew that we were chasing a dream."
Australian Associated Press