State of Origin re-kindled an excitement for 2021 in Queensland Maroons forward Jai Arrow.
The 25-year-old, who starred in all three games for the Maroons, said reconnecting with coach Wayne Bennett renewed his excitement to head to new club South Sydney Rabbitohs.
"I can't wait," Arrow, who made his NRL debut under Bennett at the Brisbane Broncos in 2016, said.
"To be coached by him again is a great honour. I think he is probably the best coach to ever coach in the game. He's done it all and done it multiple times."
Arrow said he also looked forward to working with Jason Demetriou.
"I think Wayne and Jason, and the squad they've got down there, I think we can do something pretty special," Arrow said.
"Hopefully we can do that... but it's not all words. It's got to be hard work in the pre-season and I'm planning on working really hard when I get down there."
Bennett echoed Arrow’s sentiment about working together again after being impressed by how hard he worked during the Origin period.
“I can’t wait… I know what Jai brings on the field and more importantly off the field,” Bennett said, adding he provided a great example for the younger crop of players in the squad.
“Jai impressed me during Origin and I expect he will impress me during pre-season and next year. He knows I am excited to have him at the club and I am sure he will fit in nicely.”
Arrow said this year's Origin "bubble" had allowed him to connect with players he hadn't before, including new Souths team mates, and re-connect with players he had not seen in a while.
"Building that friendship with people... that's what rugby league is about... it's all about making new friends," Arrow said.
"Obviously I know Jaydn…. I played 20s with him. I obviously knew of Corey but hadn't really spoken to him or anything. But to get to know him, he's obviously going to be my team mate next year, it was good to kindle with them and get to ask them what it's all about down there. My first main focus is to earn the respect of my team mates down at Souths and hopefully I can do that."
The Burleigh junior, who recently shaved off his mullet and raised nearly $5000 during the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave, added the move was bitter sweet because the Gold Coast Titans had "a spot close to my heart".
Arrow spent three seasons at the Titans and played 56 of his 80 NRL games at the club.
"I obviously love the club, I love the boys there... I loved working with the coaching staff up here and I'm sure they're destined for great things," Arrow said.
"It's my hometown but I feel as though I have to get away from the Gold Coast and go challenge myself somewhere else. It's obviously a big move for me and trust me, it wasn't easy. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make in my life.
"I'm obviously going to miss it up here but I'm excited for the new chapter in Sydney."
Arrow, reflecting on the year, said it had been an absolute rollercoaster.
"2020 was pretty crazy to be honest... it's obviously been a different time for everyone and obviously I was lucky enough to put on that Maroons jersey three times this year, and win the series," Arrow said.
"But finishing up here, in my hometown, now to be heading down to Sydney... it's very weird but exciting for myself.
"I can't wait to get down there and get stuck in. But winning an Origin series was pretty special and a moment that I think was the best feeling I think I've ever had in my life."
Arrow said Origin was not without struggle for him after he man-handled concussed NSW skipper James Tedesco during the decider; the move saw the NRL match review committee charge him with grade-one contrary conduct and he was fined.
"I'm man enough to admit I did the wrong thing. Am I proud of what I did? No. Do I regret it? Of course I do. But I know in my mind I didn't know he was unconscious... there's no way I would do that intentionally," Arrow said, adding when he realised he was "first one to kneel down and see if he was ok and put my hand up to stop play when we were in a try-scoring opportunity".
"I did reach out to him to apologise. I apologised to him on the field when he was a bit dazed, I apologised to him after the game and I've also apologised to him through direct message as well. I know I did the wrong thing, but when my family gets brought into it, I'm disappointed in people for that.
"It was all over social media and I've been bagged a bit. I suppose I can put up with that, but the worst thing about it all is people can come at me and bag me all you want... but when my family get brought into in... my 10-year-old nephew was getting threats, being told he's going to be bashed because of what I did... that really annoyed me."
Arrow, admitting he was probably "the most hated person in New South Wales at the moment", said he could not change it now, but he hoped people realised he wished he could.
Arrow, who will drive south during the coming week to his new digs in Maroubra, said his focus now was on pre-season and season 2021.
"Once I get settled in, I'm there for the next four years,” Arrow said.
"I just want to play consistent footy and get the respect of my new team mates and coaching staff down there... and then hopefully a few things will roll off the back of that into Origin again. I obviously want to be back in that arena. It's pretty special to put on that Maroons jersey, to run out, especially at Suncorp in a decider... I got to feel that the other week and I definitely want to be feeling that again."