He is living proof of what can be achieved if you refuse to give up on your dream and Rabbitohs five-eighth Cody Walker has urged Shaun Nona to keep his dream of an NRL debut with the Dragons very much alive.
Nona is competing with Josh McCrone and Jai Field to partner Gareth Widdop in the halves to start St George Illawarra's season having won an Intrust Super Cup with the Northern Pride in 2014 and Intrust Super Premiership with the Illawarra Cutters last year.
Nona's premiership win with the Pride three years ago came at the expense of Walker's Easts Tigers outfit, the last time the pair crossed paths in careers that have mirrored each other in many ways.
The pair of classy five-eighths were both born in 1990 and served lengthy apprenticeships in Queensland's premier competition before NRL clubs came calling and now Nona wants to emulate Walker by making his NRL debut at 26 years of age.
Viewing his one-year deal with the Dragons as his last shot at becoming an NRL player, Nona spoke of the inspiration he has drawn from Walker, something the Rabbitohs five-eighth said was humbling to hear.
"That's pretty humbling to hear those sorts of words from a guy who I have played against a fair bit over my career," Walker told NRL.com.
"I've lived by that motto all through my career, never giving up on your dreams and my dream was to play NRL. I was fortunate enough to get that last year.
"I've always said that it didn't matter what age I was going to debut. To get that feeling of debuting in Round 1 last year I'd do it all over again so I don't think it's that unusual to debut at 26.
"I wanted to get that goal of playing NRL so I was never going to give up."
A suspension to Luke Keary from the previous season opened the door for Walker to make his long-awaited NRL debut in Round 1, 2016 and he held his position at five-eighth for the opening six games of the season thanks largely to the broken jaw suffered by Adam Reynolds in Round 1 against the Roosters.
But despite the departure of Keary to the Roosters, a new three-year deal until the end of the 2019 season and the experience of 20 games in the top grade last year, Walker insists he is not guaranteed the No.6 jersey for Round 1 against the Wests Tigers.
"I've still got to nail down that spot in the six," Walker said.
"I haven't been given the six as of yet, I've still got to trial well and train hard."
This article first appeared on NRL.com