SHELLHARBOUR Sharks product Jai Field will be with the Parramatta Eels until the end of the season, after the club recently upgraded his contract.
The Eels announced they were rewarding the Group Seven junior's hard work by increasing his deal from a train-and-trial to a development spot, alongside Watson Heleta.
"The club and I were in negotiations just before we went into lockdown to transition me into one of the development spots," Field said.
"However, the lockdown temporarily put those discussions on hold - I was left in limbo, not knowing what was happening.
"I had to sit patiently and wait until we resumed club training before the conversations could restart, which thankfully they did.
"Once we got back to training, all the paperwork was there waiting for me and I signed on until the end of the season.
"The first six weeks I was there, prior to lockdown, was outstanding and I loved being a part of the club - I jumped at the chance to extend my stay with the Eels."
The 22-year-old, who Eels general manager of football Mark O'Neill labelled an 'enormous talent', was positive about his first training stint with the Eels, before the lockdown forced him to train in isolation.
"Thankfully I had just started training with Parramatta, so they gave me, along with the rest of the playing group, a training program to stick to," Field said.
"Before the NRL set the return date (May 28), it was a little harder to motivate myself because of the unknowns surrounding the whole situation.
"There were days I'd complete my training but have no idea if or when we would be back in that team environment.
"However, once they set a return date, it made it easier as we all had a goal to work towards.
"It was also easier being able to train with close mates and current Dragons players Blake Lawrie and Adam Clune, as we all live in Flinders.
"The fact we were all able to push ourselves and keep each other accountable made it easier to stay motivated and complete our necessary sessions.
"Our team Whatsapp group message and regular Zoom chats gave us all a chance to discuss certain personal aspects with our coaches and training staff. This ensured we were in top condition when we returned to team training."
This individual training wasn't too unusual for Field, who spent most of the summer doing individual workouts after parting ways with St George Illawarra.
"I got my head around the individual training a lot quicker than other blokes because of the work I'd done by myself over the summer," he said.
"It was three of the toughest months I've had in my career but it definitely helped me prepare for this lockdown."
Field and his teammates returned to training on Monday, May 4 for two days of COVID-19 protocols, before returning to the paddock on Wednesday.
"It was a huge relief to get back to training and do what we love, which is playing footy," the 12-game NRL up-and-comer said.
"You miss that 13 versus 13 competition, where you do more than just pass and kick to your COVID-19 training partner."
Field acknowledges how positive the vibe is at the Eels at the moment, as they are one of six teams to have won their first two matches.
"There's a really positive feeling in the group at the moment and everyone is keen to build on the side's great start to the season," Field said.
"Everyone's gelling really well so far.
"I know I've only come in late but the work ethic and comradeship at the club is outstanding and it's some of the best I've ever seen."
Although Field wasn't named in the Eels squad to face Brisbane on Thursday, he is trying to make the most of each session by learning from the team's incumbent spine of Clint Gutherson, Dylan Brown, Mitch Moses and Reed Mahoney.
"All the guys in my positions have been great to work with and have really helped me transition into a new system," he said
"They are all some of the hardest trainers we have at the club and show the importance of putting your best foot forward every time you step on the training paddock, which is a trait I've always prided myself on."
With no NSW Canterbury Cup season in 2020, Field knows how important training is.
"All the coaches have emphasised how important each and every one of us is in the squad and that we all need to be ready if our number is called," he said.
"With no Canterbury Cup matches, it's important we bring a game intensity to each session, especially during our opposed sessions with the top grade each week.
"It's a unique situation for us all, as no one's been through anything like this before but the main thing is we have continuity with our sessions.
"We still have a captain's run the day before first grade's match and then on the day they're playing, we will hold our own replica game, which involves a lot of running and wrestling - to keep our bodies game fit.
"Personally, I'm feeling really strong and fit at the moment and I'm ready to go if needed, as things can change very quickly in this sport."
Field, along with his NRL training, has been working hard with Canterbury Cup coach Ryan Carr.
"A big focus for me at the moment is learning my role in the group and finding my voice as a playmaker," he said.
"I'm still developing on combinations with people. On top of that, Ryan's been fantastic to work with, breaking down aspects of my game on video, which is even more important now we have no games.
" I'd love to play a couple of games this season to prove myself and help secure a new contract but that's out of my control - that will take care of itself if I continue to do the work day in, day out."