Trent Merrin's move to Penrith from the Dragons three years ago came at arguably the peak period of his Telstra Premiership career with all eyes on his on-field performance.
But as Merrin reflects on a third consecutive Ken Stephen medal nomination, the former NSW prop believes his biggest growth has come off the paddock.
What makes Merrin's case to receive the award more special is the fact he went out and built his own initiative in 2018 with the launch of his "Move out of your head" campaign in March, inspired by his post-game dancing following a win for the Panthers.
"It's probably taken me until I came to Penrith and stepped out of my comfort zone from the Dragons to come into a space where I had to step into the unknown," Merrin told NRL.com.
"The transition of moving from my comfort zone to my uncomfortable zone is where I found out we are very powerful players to the community.
"At the start of your career it's very overwhelming, it's a lot about yourself and trying to set yourself up in the game.
"It's not until you're a few years into your career where you can take a step back and look at what role you do play in the community."
Merrin's moves to aid mental health
Merrin has spoken in the past of a troubled childhood where he was bullied about being overweight.
He continues to spread the message around mental health and importance of exercise on his social media pages and website.
The 28-year-old joined a group of young dancers at Martin Place in a flash mob performance earlier in the season, while he is a go-to man at the club for all community programs.
"It was overwhelming how much reach we got from that," Merrin said.
"It's definitely one way to get it out there, to be in Martin Place spreading the word of mental health.
"The girls that were involved loved it and walked away feeling a sense of belonging which is where we're trying to reach. I know there is a niche in the community.
"If we can build a place of belonging in the community and people that do have mental troubles along the way. You never see Gus or Brandy or the board dancing in the room. It takes a lot to get someone to do that."
Merrin credited his family upbringing when speaking of his nomination.
"I'm overwhelmed with it, when they let me know I was shocked," he said.
"You don't do these things to be nominated for something but to be is very overwhelming. I'm humbled to be nominated for such a prestigious award.
"If I can do anything to give back to the community or fans of rugby league I'll do everything I can. Once you're in the game for a number of years it becomes more selfless than about yourself. It's more about giving back than taking from it.
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