Rob Valetini left Wallabies camp in need of a break.
It was a long year for a professional rugby player, 2020, especially if you were an ACT Brumby. Pre-season training was shifted to Newcastle when Canberra was blanketed by bushfire smoke.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought Super Rugby to a halt, leaving players to train alone or in small groups. Salaries were slashed and many wondered what the uncertainty meant for their long-term future.
The landscape changed dramatically as they returned to win a domestic competition, before joining the Wallabies for a Tri Nations campaign which ran into December.
Then came time to step away, and that five-week period has paved the way for a refreshed Valetini to emerge as one of the game's most devastating players.
MORE RUGBY UNION
Now he has signed a two-year extension to stay with the Brumbies until the end of 2023, a huge boost leading into a Super Rugby AU final against Queensland at Lang Park on Saturday.
"The break I had after Wallabies was a good one for myself, just to get away from rugby," Valetini said.
"Coming back into pre-season I hit the ground running and felt like myself, I took it to another level. I'm just glad I'm stringing it along to hopefully continue my form.
"I'm just trying to set up things for myself here [in Canberra]. I'll move into my new house soon, having security for the next couple of years and building on things other than rugby."
Brumbies assistant Laurie Fisher says Valetini's decision to re-sign until the end of the 2023 World Cup is "great for Australian rugby".
Valetini says a better work-life balance has allowed him to find his feet as a leader at the club.
"I don't know what he does away from here, I dare not ask. But if he says that's what it is, then that's what it is," Fisher joked.
"He's a different person to what he has been over the past couple of years. He is certainly more mature, he is much more thorough in his preparation, he is training a lot better than he has trained over the past couple of years.
"There is certainly a lot going right in his life."
SUPER RUGBY AU FINAL
Saturday: Queensland Reds v ACT Brumbies at Lang Park, 7.45pm. Broadcast: Live on Stan Sport and 9Gem. Tickets from Ticketek.
*The Brumbies are offering a package for fans including a charter flight to and from Brisbane, a ticket to the final, and one night's accommodation. Secure your seat here.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: