GERRINGONG'S Mitchell Henderson has returned home after an incredible two-year international adventure.
After completing Kiama High School as an 18-year-old, he took an enormous step for someone his age and decided to head overseas to play rugby league in England and France.
"I organised an interview with Troy Perkins, the coach from the Hemel Stags," the 20-year-old Henderson said of the English side. "He was keen for me to come over and said they would assist me in finding a job, so I decided to give it a go.
"The Stags had two guys from Manly going over too, so I met with them for a couple of drinks in Sydney and we finished up sharing a house for the first year before I went over to France to play in the off-season."
He said turning out with the Stags, who played in the National Championship League Division three, was a fantastic experience.
"I played in my favourite fullback spot," Henderson said.
"We made the final in the first year and won the premiership last year, which was a great thrill.
"I worked as a teacher's aid in Mitchell Brook Primary School in the first year and moved around schools before finishing back at Mitchell Brook on a permanent basis by the end of the second year."
One of the highlights of his stint in England was being selected for the Commonwealth Ex-Pats against the Community Lions in a curtain-raiser for the England versus NRL Exiles game. This included a two-day camp.
"We copped a bit of a hiding, but it was great to be selected in a representative side - particularly as it was my first year over there," he said. "Unfortunately the game wasn't played again last year."
In between English seasons he moved to France, playing with the La Reole club near Bordeaux in the French wine region and working as a general hand in a vineyard.
"The whole experience was tremendous and while it's great to be home, I will never forget the experience of playing and working overseas - now it's time to get my head down and go to university," he said.
He will attend the University of Technology in Sydney, where he will be starting a Bachelor of Human Movement. He has also been training with Wests Tigers feeder club Burwood/North Ryde's Bundy Cup team since November.
He made the squad's Christmas "cut" and while their numbers still have be culled further, he is confident of making the final squad's top 25, having already been selected in a squad to play in two nines tournaments and two full trials with the club.