Rabbitohs winger Richie Kennar says his end-of-season departure to Scotland and Ireland on a two-year Mormon mission is something he has believed he would do since he was a little kid and was coming regardless of the advancement of his NRL career.
The former Storm back-up enjoyed something of a breakthrough in early 2018 at Souths with some strong performances before being sidelined with a frustrating three-month foot injury.
He only returned to playing a fortnight ago via Souths feeder club North Sydney and has been swept back into the NRL side for this Friday's blockbuster against the Roosters due to a horrible season-ending ACL injury to Adam Douehi.
But neither his own breakout efforts, the club's strong form or the fact he had a year to run on his contract could stand in the way of something he believed was bigger than himself and what he described as a chance to put other people first and be part of something bigger than himself.
Kennar's former Melbourne teammate Young Tonumaipea has also pulled the pin, making a mid-season departure from Melbourne for his Mormon mission in Germany.
"We've always wanted to go since we were little kids and felt like this year was the right time for us," Kennar said.
"To leave what I've been working for since I was a little kid (with footy), this is something I'm not forced to do or have to do, this is something I want to do. Putting other people before myself."
Kennar went out of his way to express gratitude to the club and coach Anthony Seibold for supporting his decision.
"I want to thank the club for allowing me to get a release early and to be able to fulfil my mission. I spoke to Seebs when I first made the decision, he had my back, he was very supportive, he was happy for me," Kennar added.
"I've always wanted to go since I was a little kid. This year before the start of the season I decided I was going. I just had to wait for my call [from the church] and once I got the call I told the club."
In the immediate term, Kennar is just ecstatic to be back in the NRL after earlier believing he may have played his last game of any kind before his mission.
"I've been out for close to 12 weeks now," he said.
"When I first did it in my mind I thought I was out for the whole year. I knew it wasn't right but full credit to the medical staff, Eddie [Farah] and his staff have got me back on the field earlier than I expected.
"It was tough, I wanted to play all the games throughout this year but everything happens for the reason and I'm just grateful to be back with the boys.
"I had my last game for the Bears two weeks ago then played last week. It's good to be back. I tore one of the ligaments in my foot but now everything's all right and ready to play on Friday. I can't wait to run out there with the boys."
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