IN what can only be described as a true testament to his tactical and development abilities, Muswellbrook's Steve Haylen recently made his way to Europe as part of the coaching staff in a rugby league tour.
The NSW Country under-16s side travelled to England in November; and the local mentor was lucky enough to get the invite as their assistant coach.
A far cry from the Upper Hunter, the 48-year-old said it was an intriguing experience to be part of the trip.
Despite being immensely experienced, Haylen stated there was still plenty to grasp from a management perspective.
"I got to learn a lot over there with the coaching staff and we got to meet some of the staff in England who coach some of their first division teams," he said.
It's fair to say the visitors must have listened intently to the advice they were given, as the young squad won its first match by an absurd margin of 62-0 over the England Community Lions East U16.
Not content with one crushing victory, they performed strongly again in their second fixture, which saw them defeat the Leeds Rhinos U16 32-10.
That wasn't the only honour bestowed upon the local league stalwart over the summer though, as it was confirmed he would be coaching the Greater Northern Tigers under-16 team for the 2020 representative season.
The youth and inexperience of that side is something that Haylen believes is both a challenge and an opportunity.
"We're pretty well prepared for the Andrew Johns Cup next week," he said.
"And, there are a few boys who haven't played at this level of footy before - and they're also really keen.
"We're looking forward to seeing how they go."
They recently played a trial match against Western Rams, and got their pre-season off to a solid start with a 16-all draw.
When asked about whether he was still excited by the prospect of nurturing some of the state's best young talent, he gave a very clear answer.
"I've always been involved in rugby league since I was 7 [years old], and when I finished I couldn't just walk away," said Haylen.
"I wanted to stay involved and I just see this as a way to teach the younger kids and pass on some knowledge, but also keep up with the game itself as it changes.
"I like seeing the young fellas improve and go through the grades.
"You see the good and bad stories but they're mostly good."