NSW forward Trent Merrin believes his relationship with surfer Sally Fitzgibbons can help take both of their careers to a new level.
After winning an NRL premiership in 2010 and making his State of Origin debut the year after, Merrin has another shot at beating the all-conquering Queensland, starting in the series opener in Brisbane on Wednesday night.
The Shellharbour junior said his blossoming partnership with Gerroa's Fitzgibbons had provided new insight into professionalism through the eyes of another athlete.
Fitzgibbons is in Fiji chasing a world surfing title after she won the last round of the tour in Brazil to ignite her challenge.
The 24-year-old Dragon said following Fitzgibbons's career gives him as much pleasure as his own and allows him a focus away from rugby league.
"She's the most professional athlete I've come across and she is a gorgeous person as well," Merrin said.
"I think to get away from the game and have such a special person in my life makes me a very lucky person.
"The interest I have in her sport and her life helps break things down a bit especially being under the pump at the Dragons.
"It's good to have someone whose career I can idolise.
"I couldn't be happier with our relationship."
The Blues squad travelled to Brisbane on Sunday where they assembled at their city centre hotel after an opposed session with a Group 3 representative side at their Coffs Harbour base earlier in the day.
Merrin also credited the influence of former coach Wayne Bennett with helping him to become a fully-fledged member of the Blues squad.
Merrin had a meteoric start to his career under Bennett, winning the 2010 NRL grand final as a 20-year-old with St George Illawarra and less than 12 months later he was lining up for NSW.
After helping the Blues level the series in game two in both 2011 and 2012, Stuart opted against picking Merrin for both deciders - something he admits shattered his confidence and left him racked with self doubt.
"As a kid I never made any rep teams, so I had to work really hard to be recognised," Merrin said.
"But once I hit the NRL scene everything come really swiftly.
"I was playing first grade and then grand finals and then suddenly I was playing Origin.
"I took it pretty personally being cut for Origin game three two years running, it really hurt.
"I was going through a really tough time.
"I started doubting myself and judging myself."
Sensing Merrin was struggling in 2011 before his move to Newcastle, Bennett sat down with the youngster and told him he needed to compartmentalise his life if he was to fulfil his potential.
"I think you start to drift away from reality a bit when you play footy at first grade," he said.
"Wayne was fantastic and gave me some good advice, as were my parents.
"It's a big mind game, rugby league.
"If you let it get over you it can really bring you down.
"I used to live, breathe and eat footy.
"It takes over your life.
"Wayne drove it home that you play footy, then you need to get away from it.
"I am very lucky to have rugby league as my career but sometimes it takes over too much and it can do your head in.
"I am very close to him.
"Whenever I chat to him I have to thank him for everything he has done for me."