Stephen Kearney sounds relaxed, refreshed and revitalised.
Living on the Sunshine Coast can do that, but it's probably more a reflection of his work situation, as Kearney has been part of the Melbourne Storm machine that has set all kinds of records in 2021.
It's the fillip that was needed, after his annus horribilis last year.
This time 12 months ago Kearney was still bruised from his axing as Warriors coach, which came four games into the restarted 2020 NRL season, following the Covid induced pause.
Kearney had been on notice, following the failure to make the top eight in 2019, but his departure was particularly brutal, the message conveyed the morning after the 40-12 defeat to the Rabbitohs, with the club having a 2-4 record amidst all the Covid chaos.
Since then, Kearney has bounced back at the Storm, in his second stint on Craig Bellamy's coaching team, after a previous spell between 2006 and 2010.
"They reached out a couple of weeks after I was let go by the Warriors," Kearney tells the Herald. "There was nothing certain at that time, but we worked through things by the end of the year."
Kearney has recently agreed to a two-year contract extension at the club that has been part of his life for 12 years (six as a player).
"It's a wonderful team there, the staff, Craig [Bellamy] and great young coaches," says Kearney. "I'm really grateful for the opportunity."
Kearney looks after the ruck attack and defensive analysis, while also working with the leadership group and emerging leaders. It's a multi-faceted, stimulating role, but does he retain ambitions of being a head coach again?
"I haven't even thought about that," says Kearney. "Obviously after the experiences I have endured, particularly over the last three or four years, I wanted to make sure that I found my feet again. It was a pretty challenging experience to go through.
"I want to make sure I am doing the best job that I can here and I haven't thought too far down the track."
In terms of the coaching game, Kearney, 49, is still young but admits the tenures at the Eels and the Warriors left a mark.
"They are pretty challenging experiences, the ones that you have that aren't so good," says Kearney. "I guess part of me is not so sure whether I want to endure that type of thing again.
"What I am doing whets my appetite in terms of helping individuals, helping a footy club and I want to do that to the best of my ability."
Melbourne, who face Penrith in a preliminary final on Saturday night, have been irrepressible this year.
They have only lost three games all season, with a 19-match unbeaten run at one point, despite predictions that they might struggle after Cameron Smith's retirement.
Kearney feels there was an adjustment, but the legacy of Smith – as well as Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk - is still paying dividends for the squad.
"They have had the front seat to three of the best leaders the game has seen in the last 15 years," says Kearney. "Guys like Cameron [Munster], Dale [Finucane], Jesse Bromwich, Kenny Bromwich, Jahrome Hughes - they have all had the front seat to what leadership looks like and it is the same from a playing sense. They have seen what is required.
"If [those three] weren't the best educators in the game, they were pretty close, and that is not even taking into account what Craig and the coaches bring."
Playing a part in the formidable Storm operation and being able to contribute to player development has given Kearney a renewed sense of satisfaction.
He enjoyed being back in Melbourne, and the subsequent stints on the Sunshine Coast, when the Storm were forced to relocate, brought him closer to his Brisbane-based wife Piri and their two daughters.
The period has helped him move on and he is reluctant to reflect on 2020.
"There is no point in going back there," says Kearney. "They made a decision they felt was right for them. [In terms of] the way it panned out, what's done is done. No point in bringing up that side of it.
"I was well aware that when you get into the business that is potentially what could happen, I'm over it, I've moved on and I am pretty sure they have too."
It's just over five years ago that Kearney arrived at Mt Smart, with plenty of hope and ambition for what he could achieve at New Zealand's only NRL club. How does he reflect on that stint now?
"It depends on how you measure it," says Kearney. "You always have an aspiration to improve the footy club and that was part of the reason why the role was so attractive, because you want to see the Warriors do well.
"[But] we made the finals once, so apart from one year (2018), we didn't achieve what we set out to achieve.
"There were good and not so good parts. When you see individuals develop to a position they get to in the game, that is what I have always loved about coaching and I was fortunate to get hold of some when they were starting off in their careers.
"The tough part is what happened at the end, which is always disappointing and challenging. [But] I look back with fond memories in the sense of helping individuals grow the way they did and a couple of them achieve some personal accolades."