Laying in hospital following surgery to put plates into a jaw broken in several places helped Wests Tigers back-rower Josh Aloiai appreciate how tough some people have it at this time of year.
Aloiai was among several Wests Tigers players to visit Liverpool Hospital's Paediatric Unit on Monday to hand out Christmas gifts donated by club members to kids spending the holiday period in hospital and Aloiai told NRL.com that his own recent hospital stint meant he'd been particularly looking forward to doing something nice for the kids.
"With the time I spent in hospital recently I was really looking forward to doing this visit," Aloiai said.
"I had some empathy for the kids we were about to visit and couldn't help thinking about the toy drive we were about to do. I was really excited since then to do this toy drive.
"I couldn't help but think about all the kids that are going to spend their Christmas in hospital."
The devout 21-year-old said football was just as much about giving back to the community as what players do on the field.
"A lot of the kids are going through a tough time at the moment so for us to come and cheer them up a little bit I think makes a world of difference for them and we're blessed to be able to do it," he said.
"Footy's not just about what we do on the field, not what we do at training; it's about being able to use that to go and bless people.
"I know the boys love doing it and we love it even more once we see the reaction of the kids and the parents and the whole thing."
Aloiai suffered the broken jaw just three weeks into the club's return to training at a beach session but politely declined to dob in which teammate it was who clobbered him, causing several fractures to his jaw.
"Three weeks into pre-season we were doing a contact session on the beach and I just copped a bit of a shot in the jaw and got a few breaks. I had surgery that weeks and had a few weeks off but back training now," he said.
"I can't remember, I don't want to do dropping any names, we'll keep that on the hush!" he laughed. "Accidents happen, that's footy."
Aloiai is already back in full training minus the contact sessions.
"At the moment I'm back to everything except for contact, it's been really quick actually. After the Christmas break I should be practically be into everything," he said.
The former Eels NYC player – who in 2016 became the first Wests Tigers player to play every year in his debut season – said he'd be treating his breakthrough year as a building block while the club would feed on the pain of missing the finals by one game as it looked to go even better in 2017.
"Last year was a really good year [personally] and I'm really happy with how it went. That's pretty much the building block and foundation moving into this year. It's onward and upward this year," he said.
"Being one game out of the finals really hurt. Even though we're moving forward we're holding onto that pain and we're not going to allow ourselves to feel that again and we're gunning hard for the top eight this year."
This article first appeared on NRL.com