IN an alternate coronavirus free universe, the 2020 NRL season would almost be at the halfway mark, with players preparing for their respective round 10 fixtures this weekend.
However, that reality feels lightyears away and players such as St George Illawarra Dragons veteran Trent Merrin are just restarting team training ahead of the season's resumption on May 28.
While the Shellharbour Sharks product said he worked hard during the six-week hiatus, he added the extra time at home was a blessing in disguise.
He got to spend time his two-month-old son Mayne.
"It [the break] was a special time for me personally," Merrin said.
"With society going through a tough period like this, it was great to take advantage of that extra time at home and spend more time with my firstborn son.
"Apart from that, the biggest thing I've taken away from this break has been what my life might look like after I do finish up playing and what passions I want to invest my time in away from playing - it's been exciting to open my eyes in that regard.
"Ideally I'd like to stay involved in rugby league but more at a junior level and help develop that system.
"Rugby league, now more than ever, is a business and I'd like to help educate the younger players coming through the grades on what to expect in the professional environment, such as the media, player managers and other aspects they don't tell you about away from the scenes.
"With all that being said, it [the lockdown] wasn't like we were on a holiday - the club put us to work,and gave us sessions to complete to ensure we maintained our fitness and strength and were ready to go when we got the all-clear to come back in."
The 12-year professional rugby veteran forward, having gone through a number of pre-seasons during his career, knows how to get the best out of his body.
"Over the years, you start to get into a solid routine and you know how to handle certain situations, look after your body and prepare yourself to the best of your capabilities," the 30-year-old said.
"Pre-season and training camps, like we are going through now, definitely don't get any easier, especially physically.
"However, from the mental aspect, I think I was better equipped to deal with a situation at this point in my career than I would have been when I was younger."
Merrin and his Dragons, upon their return to training at WIN Stadium, have been trying to tweak a couple of aspects to their game, after dropping their first two matches of the season to Wests Tigers and Penrith.
"It's a weird feeling - to train so hard for so long in pre-season, you just want to get out there and rip in," he said.
"Then for this to happen, it feels like in a way we're back to square one.
"However, we are taking a positive outlook on it - we're in a fortunate position to be able to look at what worked and what didn't in the opening couple of rounds, analyse it and make the necessary changes.
"Full credit to the coaches who have used the break to establish the main adjustments we need to make on both sides of the ball.
"We're definitely using this time to our advantage, to ensure the things that let us down earlier in the season are improved on and don't hurt us in the upcoming games."
While Merrin admits the restart will be 'tricky' with no trial matches, he's confident his boys won't need any time to work their way into shape.
"Once we were given the all-clear to resume contact work, we've taken full advantage of it and been giving our all at training to get our bodies ready," he said.
"Just like everyone else, I'm ready to get out there and play - I'm confident we'll hit the ground running when the competition resumes."
From a personal perspective, the former NSW and Australian forward is happy to fill whatever role coach Paul McGregor has for him
"Whatever my role is for the team, I'm going to give all I possibly can," Merrin, who started the team's opening two matches from the bench, said.
"If that pushes me into a starting position, that's great but if the best role for me is to continue to come off the bench as an impact player, I'll happy to do that too - whatever is best for the team.
"Coming into the back end of my career, my main goal is to see this club get back to where it should be, which is the top."
Merrin, who's also played for the Penrith Panthers and Leeds Rhinos, also welcomed the idea of the NRL re-introducing the one referee system.
"In the past, I didn't mind playing with one referee - as a middle player, it's easier to get away with a lot more in the ruck," he said.
"Whereas, with two referees, the speed of the game is increased, which is a good thing too, because everyone these days is trying to slow down the play the ball.
"Regardless of whichever system we play with - which both have pros and cons - it's still rugby league at the end of the day."
The other hot topic in rugby league circles at the moment is the flu vaccination, which Merrin weighed in on.
"We are all individual players and everyone has their own beliefs and are entitled to their own rights, which will determine their view on such things such as a flu vaccination," said Merrin - who's whole club were vaccinated weeks ago.
"Taking away all the outside noise from the business side of rugby league, it comes down to what every player is comfortable with.
"If someone doesn't want to take it, they shouldn't be crucified for it or have it blown out of proportion, as there are so many other things going on in the world right now - the league should put measures in place to accommodate those players.
"If the NRL want to implement a 'no jab, no play' approach, then that's the rule they put in place and those individuals are going to have to live with their decisions."