IN the sports world, a change of scenery can often be the catalyst of taking one's career to the next level.
Shellharbour Sharks product Euan Aitken hopes that is the case for his rugby league journey, after recently beginning his first pre-season with the Warriors after six seasons at the Dragons.
"This is my second week in Kiama and it's been a very smooth transition thus far," Aitken, who only knew fellow recruit Addin-Fonua Blake beforehand due to his time at the Dragons, said.
"The fact we've only got half the squad here (with the New Zealand-based players in Auckland) has made it easier for me develop relationships with all the 17 players and coaches with us - not to mention I can still easily catch up with my partner and friends.
"With a lot of forwards in our group, our main focus is been getting our bodies fit and strong ahead of moving to Tamworth on January 4.
"We've also been doing a fair bit of tactical training, in aspects like the team's defensive structures and policies."
The upbeat Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs junior is confident he can build on his strong end to the season with the Red V.
"After being dropped, I worked my way back into the side and quickly cemented my spot on the left edge - only missing one game towards the end due to injury.
"I truly believe I was starting to show my full potential, after getting an extended opportunity in the side on the left edge."
Primarily a right centre during the early stages of his 121-game career, Aitken shifted to the left mid-season and thrived - which gives him the confidence he can do the same with New Zealand in 2021.
"I've had a couple of brief chats with Browny [coach Nathan Brown] and the plan at this stage is for me to play on the left, which I'm fully on board with," the former Country Origin representative said.
"Having played so much on the right before, the versatility to play on either side is a great asset to have as a player.
"Being able to carry the ball and fend with both hands will make my a more complete player and harder for opponents to try and slow down.
"Then without the ball, I didn't miss many tackles or concede many try involvements down my side last season, which shows I'm more than capable of defending on the left.
"These provide me with a strong base to build on and I'll be working on becoming more comfortable in these aspects over the pre-season - especially when we get to Tamworth and rip into more skill-based drills with the full squad."
By combining these with his experience and power, Aitken knows he can become a dangerous asset to the Warriors side.
"My aim is to help the club achieve their goal, which is playing finals football," he said.
"If the team is winning and I'm playing well, more individual accolades, such as State of Origin, will present themselves.
"I went close to being picked for the Blues a couple of years ago - I was probably one strong game away from getting named.
"Even Phil Gould told me I was a whisker away from being picked but in those instances, you need some luck.
"I know I'm not far away from that, so all I can do is do whatever I can to help the team win because everyone looks better in a successful side."
While the odds may be against the ever-moving Warriors, who will wrap up training in Kiama on December 18, before heading to Tamworth for a month and the Central Coast for at least two months, Aitken is confident the side has learnt a lot from last year and can make the most of the 2021 season on the road.
"Obviously living out of a suitcase is a challenge and can be stressful because of the uncertainty but the whole Warriors organisation deserve recognition for their efforts last season," he said.
"They made almighty sacrifices to keep the game going in 2020 and that courage shown will no doubt benefit the squad next year.
"With that adversity under their belts and the new coaching staff and players at the club, there's no reason why we can't take the Warriors back to finals football in 2021.
"The club is headed in the right direction and I'm excited to be a part of it."
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