REGARDLESS of the global coronavirus pandemic, Dane Sherratt was always having 2020 off.
The 28-year-old just didn't expect he'd be returning for a Shute Shield campaign with the Hunter Wildfires.
Sherratt, who has played in the Newcastle competition since arriving in Australia from South Africa in 2015, will be one of the fly-half options for coach Scott Coleman.
Having been on the sidelines this season, enjoying time alongside wife Kendall and son Slater at home in Cardiff South, the dual premiership winner at Hamilton is now ready to scratch the itch and wants to mark a mark in Sydney.
"I was always going to have 2020 off," Sherratt said.
"I'd decided about halfway through the year before and it worked out quite well with COVID-19 and not really any competition [locally].
"So it was really good to have some time away but after a while I started to get that bug back and that competitive drive.
"Bubba [Coleman] hit me up about the Wildfires and I saw it as a really good challenge. I'm really looking forward to it."
Shute Shield had always interested the former NSW Country and Cheetahs under-21 representative, but he'd never made the move down to the state capital.
The Wildfires venture, kicking on from last year and locked in until the end of 2022, allows that goal to become a reality for Sherratt.
"I've always had one or two coaches from Shute Shield, including Darren Coleman, ask me about going down to play," he said.
"There was always visa issues and I didn't like the appeal of living in Sydney or the travel.
"This [Wildfires] came up and I think it has fallen into a lot of guys laps because you get to play a higher level of rugby all from Newcastle."
Sherratt, recently granted permanent residency in Australia, has also been buoyed by the announcement of several high-profile players over the last week or so featuring Tongan World Cup halfback Leon Fukofuka.
"One of the first things I asked was who is playing halfback," he said.
"He's been to a World Cup and it means you get the ball on a platter which makes my job a lot easier. To have a few of these guys on board is awesome."
Henry Stowers, Kirk Tufuga and Olajuwon Noa are among the other recruits.
Many from last year's initial campaign have also recommitted.
This includes Sherratt's former teammates at The Waratahs, two-time Anderson Medal winner Carl Manu, who suffered a shoulder injury in September.
"He [Manu] was one of the main reasons I'm playing," he said.
"I love playing with him. We're both pumped to have a good pre-season and very keen to get into it."
Sherratt suffered a nasty concussion when scoring a try in the 2019 NHRU grand final and said that was the "final straw" in terms of having a season off.
"I was out for 90 seconds and it felt like I'd just woken up. It was pretty scary," he said.
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