It wasn't that long ago Hayze Perham was an 18-year-old captaining the Rotorua Boys' High School first XV rugby team, looking up to New Zealand's top athletes and watching them from a distance.
Today as a New Zealand Warriors league player, the footy boots are on the other foot, having become an athlete now inspiring the next generation of rising sports stars.
He and his Warriors teammates arrived in Rotorua on Friday ahead of their pre-season trial against Wests Tigers on Sunday, that was won 20-6 by the visitors.
But the trip to Rotorua wasn't all about the game, with players visiting schools and interacting with fans while in the Bay of Plenty.
For Perham, being home provided an opportunity to show his teammates around his home town, while also sharing some stories with budding athletes he says look to be following a similar pathway as him.
Before leaving Rotorua to return to Auckland on Monday afternoon, Perham headed back to his old school to talk to the Rotorua Boys' High School's Junior Rugby Academy students to share his experience since leaving.
His first year after finishing school in 2017 Hayze went into fulltime training as part of the New Zealand Warriors' system. But school, he says, prepared him well, finding out pretty early on that a routine, and being focused in the classroom gave him the best chance to perform at the highest level on the field.
He told the students he saw class time as the mental preparation for the work he had to do on the field.
During Perham's visit, Rotorua Boys' High School's director of rugby Ngarimu Simpkins, who coached Perham when he was at the school, described Perham as a student who worked hard in all areas of his schooling, doing everything expected of him in the classroom to a high standard.
"The type of player that Hayze was when he was at school was, he'd break habits, not only on the rugby field, but more importantly I think in the classroom," Simpkins says.
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"That transferred on to the rugby field. He had the highest of standards, the skill set was amazing."
Simpkins says having Perham giving back to his former school was a privilege.
Perham says the privilege is all his. He says he loves getting the opportunity to give back to a place that gives him so much love and support.
On game day Perham says every friend and family member who could was watching from the Rotorua International Stadium.
During a signing on the day before, kids who looked up to him and his teammates flocked seeking autographs and photographs.
Perham says being in a position to hopefully inspire the next generation is a role he doesn't take for granted, and being able to do it in Rotorua is something he values very highly.
"It's pretty much everything," Perham says.
"I love coming back home. Everyone supports me ... it's an amazing experience."
The Warriors will now focus on final preparations for the season ahead, with their first match away to the Newcastle Knights on March 14.
While Perham says still needs to get used to the fitness and physicality required of him during a game, there's only so much a game simulation can do, so he's looking forward to round one of the competition.