Luke Lewis has been bitten by the coaching bug after joining the Sharks in a specialist skills role and would be open to taking up an assistant position in the future.
The 2016 Clive Churchill Medallist is thrilled to be on John Morris's staff at his former club, giving advice during field sessions most weekdays for a total of about eight hours per week.
"I'm not doing too much at the moment, just working with [assistant] Josh Hannay, helping with the edge defence and getting into the back-rowers," said Lewis, who visited south-west NSW from Monday-Wednesday for the NRL 'Your Local Club' Road to Regions program.
"I talked about wanting to get back into it ... Coaching was something that really interested me. And it just popped up as well as a bit of an ambassador role [for] myself and Paul Gallen.
"They were talking about bringing back some culture to the club and getting some older players - players that have been around for a while - to drive that culture through the club."
Lewis, who played 324 NRL games and represented NSW and Australia, has developed a passion for coaching but conceded "I've got so much learning to do" before making it a full-time gig.
"I just want to do what I'm doing at the moment, enjoy it, learn what I can, and if an opportunity comes up for an assistant role down the track, I'll definitely jump at it," the former Panther said.
"But head coach? Oh mate, that's a whole other ball game. Maybe I'll eventually get there, but I haven't thought too much about it."
The 37-year-old has enjoyed seeing his old teammate Morris, only three years his senior, go about his business in the top job.
"He's a perfectionist, he always wants to be better than he was yesterday which I love," Lewis said.
"But the good thing is he's been there, he's done it, and I've got the opportunity to work with him at the moment, and understand how much [work] goes into it and how much time actually goes into it."
It's not only in coaching that Lewis has benefited the Sharks this pre-season - Dragons captain Cameron McInnes said the retired great helped convince him to join Cronulla in 2022.
"I was just happy to sit down, have a coffee with [McInnes], have a bit of a laugh and hear what he's about," Lewis said.
"I thought I'd give him a ring and wanted to let him know that it was a pleasure to sit down and have a chat with him and fingers crossed we'd get to see him in the black, white and blue.
"He ended up signing the deal, so I was absolutely stoked."
Elsewhere, Lewis has enthusiastically participated in the NRL 'Your Local Club' Road to Regions program this week, visiting regions that don't often get to mix with first-grade footballers alongside Jeremy Latimore, Terry Campese, Steve Menzies and Dene Halatau.
They spent time in Griffith, Hay, Lake Cargelligo, West Wyalong and Leeton, helping to deliver the educational League Stars Inspire program to schools and promoting rugby league at large.
"The program's been spot on and it's really good for the mental state of these young kids," Lewis said.
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"As a player or ex-player, you never really thought that your presence would do too much. But I had a really good experience [on Tuesday] - this young kid told me that I was his favourite player and he broke down and started crying. It was pretty touching; it was actually mind-blowing, to be honest.
"We talked to the parents, the teachers, and they said just how much it means to the kids and how much they talk about it for the next couple of days. I'm glad we had the opportunity to make a bit of a difference."
Lewis said as many as 60-70 juniors have turned out to each of the football clinics in different towns.
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"It's a really good program that the NRL have put together, I think it's been amazing," he said.
"We've talked about resilience, gratitude, support, communication, teamwork. We had some young kids today who were going through some tough things and they were speaking up."
Road to Regions is proudly brought to you by Your Local Club
To learn more about the Road To Regions program visit: https://www.nrl.com/community/programs/road-to-regions/
To learn more about the League Stars Inspire program and the free online session that is available visit: https://www.nrl.com/community/programs/league--stars-inspire/