Adam Elliott recently joined ex-Test cricketer Colin "Funky" Miller in the exclusive club of Australian sportsmen brave enough to rock bright blue hair.
But this was far more than a fashion statement from the Bulldogs lock - he wore the dyed look throughout August to help raise over $10,000 for the Autism Community Network (ACN).
Elliott has been nominated for the prestigious Ken Stephen Medal, proudly brought to you by My Property Consultants, for his impactful community work, particularly around autism initiatives.
The 25-year-old forward, whose older brother James is autistic, has been associated with the ACN for a couple of years and felt compelled to think outside the box to drum up donations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elliott, James and their father dyed their hair blue last month and a GoFundMe page for the trio's efforts was well supported. They initially set out to raise $1000 each.
"I really wanted to bring something up and focus on autism because it's a really unprecedented time for all of us," Elliott, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury since round eight, told NRL.com.
"We're all working from home or sacrificing different things in different parts of our lives and having changes to our routine on a daily basis. It's really hard for all of us, but for someone with autism, that routine is their foundation.
"Potentially for parents or carers, you can turn your day, your week, your month or your year upside down if a routine gets put out of whack. That's what we've all been dealt this year.
"I'm really lucky that James has come a very long way.
"And although his routine has been affected and it's still been challenging, we've been lucky enough that over the years we've been able to help him out to a point now where it didn't become a meltdown.
"But I know from personal experiences that there'd be so many people out there really struggling, particularly the young children with autism, that just aren't used to this and don't like the changes."
Elliott's goal was to highlight these issues to encourage more understanding and sympathy in social situations.
"Then maybe people might think next time someone in the shopping centre is having a meltdown," he said.
"It might not be a dummy spit, it might be someone with autism who's struggling ... You don't really know what everyone's going through."
The back-rower's teammates "thought I looked pretty stupid" with blue hair, but "they all respected and loved the whole idea".
"Renouf To'omaga ran out with blue hair the other week and showed his support. It's pretty cool how much the boys got behind it," he said.
"I'm sure there are a few photos that will be popping up in the future. They were all putting them in the memory bank so they could stitch me up down the track."
Elliott has also formed a relationship with Strathfield's Chalmers Road School, which caters to students with learning disabilities.
He pushed for the Bulldogs to roll out their Community Minded Kids program, aimed at Year Three students, to the school.
"I'm really proud to be a sort of ambassador for them and to go into bat for certain things like the Minded program," Elliott said.
Despite being in the casualty ward, Elliott has remained in Canterbury's COVID "bubble" throughout the season and hasn't been able to see James at home in Tathra on NSW's Sapphire Coast.
"It's been really hard ... Just a lot of FaceTime and texting and stuff with him," Elliott said.
"Especially because I've had a young baby as well, so James is a first-time uncle and he's super excited about that."
And with James as his inspiration, winning the Ken Stephen Medal would "mean much more than just an award".
"[Being nominated] is something that my family as a whole is super proud of," Elliott said.
"I know my brother James is super proud because I've told him and he knows that he's the reason that I love to do all this sort of stuff."
- A panel featuring inaugural 1988 winner and ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce will decide three finalists for the Ken Stephen Medal, with fans to determine the fourth through an NRL.com poll.