Country Origin five-eighth Cody Walker recalls watching a 12-year-old Tyrone Roberts playing above his age group just to keep playing rugby league on the North Coast of New South Wales each week.
While both have taken different paths to the representative arena, the chance to line up alongside each other in the halves for Country caps off a remarkable journey for the childhood friends.
The flamboyant pair have also watched Sea Eagles centre Brian Kelly develop into one of the game's brightest young talents and not once did it cross the trio's mind they'd all line-up together after the 20-year-old was also named in Craig Fitzgibbon's Country squad.
"I played one game with him (Tyrone Roberts) as a junior, he actually backed up a rep game and he played up a year," Walker told NRL.com.
"He grew up in Ballina and I grew up in Casino – about an hour away – so we saw each other a fair bit at junior footy and stuff like that on weekends. I know him fairly well but I'm really looking forward to playing with each and every one.
"He is a natural footballer, he'll play anywhere. A lot of kids that play footy just love being out on the field, it doesn't matter where they're playing they just love footy and I'm no different."
Walker admitted representative football hadn't been a goal of his in the past couple of seasons with his main priority being guiding South Sydney back into finals contention after making his NRL debut last year.
"[A representative game] was probably the last thing on my mind but I'm very honoured to be here and very proud to be," he said.
"I'm representing the Casino Cougars and a lot of country kids that would aspire to play in games like this.
"We always used to get around the television and watch all games. I always used to hate it when City used to win but I used to love it when Country did.
"I think it's a massive honour for me to play in the last one ever. I played for Country as a 16-year-old back in the day and I remember having the cotton jerseys and the gold V so I just can't wait to get out there."
While Roberts has made one appearance in the City-Country arena prior to the final fixture on Sunday, the 25-year-old said a win on the weekend would ensure Country would hold the title forever.
"It is a shame that's it's the last game but it will be good to celebrate and hopefully go out a winner in the final one," Roberts told NRL.com.
"It's a great week… I love representing Ballina and with a couple of boys making their debut it is good to be a part of that and makes it even more special.
"Brian [Kelly] is from Ballina as well and I used to watch him play when he was younger and then at our time with the Titans, so we all know each other in the juniors and to be able to play alongside each other in this arena and represent the country is a great opportunity."
After departing the Titans at the end of last season, Kelly links with Roberts after playing alongside the former Knight in the Koori knockout last season and admits the week leading into his first rep jersey will be a new experience.
"There is about six or seven of us from the Northern Rivers but for me personally I've never been out to Mudgee or Orange before," Kelly told NRL.com.
"It's great to know a couple of familiar faces in Tyrone, Donny (Anthony Don), Connor Watson and Cody [Walker] but I'm a bit shy around the other guys in camps not knowing them.
"I'm sure by the end of the week I'll be sweet."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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