Back in 2013 or 14, we started going to the games at WIN Stadium, which is the closest to us (and the home of Mr E's team). We make a day out of it and go and watch all the games that are on.
I really like watching the lower grade games because these guys are the next NRL heroes. You rarely get to see these guys on TV, but the talent some of them have is freaky. But it takes more than just talent to make it in the NRL. You're playing a team game, so you have to fit into a team. You have to work hard regardless of where you play. You have to have a personality that's ready to listen and learn, but also confident enough to see you through.
I like to watch the younger guys and see if I can pick who'll make it through and who we don't see again.
I had my eye on one guy because he showed all the traits I thought would make him an excellent NRL Player. On the field, he was fast and talented. A winger, but he came in for hard work taking up the ball when the forwards needed a break. His positional play was excellent. And fast, he could sprint down the field so quickly it was brilliant.
After their game, these guys often came and sat in front of us to watch the next game, so we'd get to see their interaction with each other and with the fans who came for autographs.
This guy was often out first. He sat to the side, but everyone sat with and around him. He was part of the team, joined in, laughed and joked with the others. But when kids came up to them, he never big-noted, was always polite, and would 'introduce' the kids to the other team members and sometimes nudge a guy to sign something. It's such a stupid word, but he seemed like a 'nice' guy.
In 2019, I rejoiced when I saw he'd been picked up by Manly. I think it's the only time in my life I've ever cheered for Manly, but I have been all year (except when they play Parra!).
He had a brilliant debut year and was up for the NRL Rookie of the Year, and won the Manly one.
Then he got picked for the Junior Kangaroos team.
I was absolutely thrilled for him and I loved watching him. But I'm also chuffed that I could pick a junior and watch him move through the grades to become a star. Mr E is still shaking his head at me and saying I'm creepy, but I mean nothing creepy or horrible.
I love watching people achieve. And the last few years have been such fun watching someone's NRL development.