Eye-opening trip to India for Kenny-Dowall
It was the $225 flight that could prove Shaun Kenny-Dowall's biggest achievement in life yet.
After joining the Newcastle Knights in June to kick-start a new chapter in his career after 11 seasons at the Sydney Roosters, the 29-year-old took advantage of missing New Zealand's World Cup campaign with a trip to India.
Kenny-Dowall admits in the past he would have taken a trip "with the boys" to party his way through the off-season, but not anymore as he continues to settle into Newcastle's laid-back lifestyle.
"I had the conversation with Kiddy (New Zealand coach David Kidwell) that I wasn't going to play for the Kiwis," Kenny-Dowall told NRL.com.
"It was disappointing but in saying that I turned it into a positive and for the first time in a while I had a chance to have eight weeks off at that time of the year.
"So, I thought 'bugger it', I knew we weren't going to be playing finals football and had a gap between the season ending and the World Cup.
"I didn't do too much planning about it, wasn't sure what to expect, there was just a sale to India. I've done Bali and partied but wanted to experience something different and their way of life.
"I went on my own and it was fun to be Shaun Kenny-Dowall the person. I stayed in hostels and no one knew me so it was good to meet people from all walks of life and people that were there for the same reasons."
The outside back packed a couple of bags and was on his way, visiting 11 countries across five weeks in his travels, but none opened his eyes more than India.
"I'm into yoga so I went to a place in the Himalayas to learn about meditation. It's something I've been developing throughout my career and thought it was a chance to refresh," he said.
"Seeing some of the poorer parts of India and the resources – beggars and things like rubbish – I went to these parts where there was a river running through and kids were playing in the river with rubbish everywhere and they didn't care at all.
"Seeing the way Indian people live, it's a very different lifestyle and made you appreciate what we have in Australia."
After a turbulent season in the NRL where the 230-game veteran had his contract terminated by the Sydney Roosters in June as he faced court on drug possession charges, Kenny-Dowall has turned his life around since linking with the Knights.
He was in discussions to join the Hunter-based club prior to the off-field dramas, but the deal was in jeopardy until the case was heard.
Kenny-Dowall escaped without conviction with the Knights offering him a spot in their squad eight days later.
"I would have gone close to joining the club regardless of what happened," Kenny-Dowall said.
"I'm relishing the opportunity the club has given me and feel at home. I was thankful I had the end of the season to get to know the boys so I had a step ahead.
"I always remember coming up here and it would be a fierce battle between the Roosters and Knights. I always thought it was a tough place to go but it's been great for me as a person. I feel grounded and more settled than what I was in Sydney.
"Some of the distractions that come with Sydney aren't in Newcastle. I'm relishing the chance to just focus my energy on footy. That's one thing that has opened my eyes is the support the town gives to the team. It's evident."