Richmond defender Bachar Houli has revealed an off-season trip has given him a new lease of life.
Instead of travelling to the extravagance of Las Vegas or the beaches of Thailand favoured by many AFL players, Houli's was a trip with a difference.
Houli, a devout Muslim, opened up about his pilgrimage to Mecca at the launch of the AFL's multicultural program on Thursday.
Seen as a pillar of Islam, the Hajj is an annual journey to the Saudi Arabian holy site which all healthy and able Muslims are encouraged to undertake once in their lifetimes.
Houli took the trip in October last year, joining millions of other Muslims, and said the trip had grown his determination to succeed.
"People think it's just about going there, circulating around a single stone. But it's much more than that," he said.
"It's about reflecting on yourself and helping you improve as a person."
"It opened my eyes... I'm really excited that I've done this, I've experience so much and it's made me a stronger person."
Houli, the first Muslim to play AFL football and a veteran of multicultural outreach work, said he hoped people could better understand the religion and Islamic people and children could engage in the game as a result.
"It's something I've always been really passionate about... I'm trying to target the Muslim kids, teach them about life, teach them about football," he said.
"Using that has a vehicle to teach them about themselves, about holding on to what they believe in."
Houli joins nine other AFL players including Nic Naitanui, Jobe Watson and Majak Daw as multicultural ambassadors for the year ahead, tasked with engaging Australia's diverse communities with the Australian game.
Naitanui introduced Watson's inclusion to many laughs, saying that "instead of having the token black guy we've got the token white guy now."
Watson himself said he was surprised to be asked but was relishing the role.
"How can you expect society to be inclusive if a portion of society only thinks multiculturalism is the responsibility of people with multicultural backgrounds?" Watson said.