nib Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga says he is relishing the opportunity to again connect with the Tamworth community.
The No.1, speaking from an engagement with the Tamworth and Armidale Aboriginal Children's Service, said he was just excited to return to the region following last year's visit to drought-stricken farms.
"It's good to connect with the community," Ponga said.
"Last year we were able to get out to the farms and do some work with those struggling, and to come here today to put a few smiles on kid's faces is special.
"It makes the opportunity worth it."
With the region now in the process of bouncing back post-drought, 'KP' was quick to express his happiness at the now-buzzing community after the rains of 2020.
"It's probably the complete polar opposites to last year," he said.
"It was dry and the town was a bit down in the dumps.
"But this year, to come back and for everything to be green, it's just great to see.
"We're enjoying our time here, definitely."
Ponga: Recovery, Tamworth and leadership
With Ponga an always-popular face around the community, the young live-wire lead the way in front of team mates, taking photos, shaking hands, signing autographs and not hesitating to stop for a chat with the local families.
It's these leadership qualities Ponga is attempting to further improve throughout 2021.
"If I don't have a label or anything on my name, I'm still going to try and be a leader," he said when asked of his captaincy aspirations.
"I'm still going to step up in meetings and on the field.
"I obviously want to be seen as a leader in the team."
Aside from the work in the Country Music Capital, the man known as 'KP' has another mission on his mind: His return from off-season shoulder surgery.
The custodian is racing the clock to be fit for the opening rounds of 2021, thanks to the surgery which saw him miss last year's Origin series.
With his rehab now progressing, Ponga said he was feeling optimistic.
"It's (the rehab) going good actually," Ponga said.
"Ticking all the boxes, doing everything I can.
"I know that there's a long way to go, but it's going good."