STEVEN Renouf would have missed the best two years of his life and never become a footy star if his mum let him leave school in Year 10.
He had just finished work experience with Murgon sparky Max Ellis when he went to her with his request.
Becoming an electrician had become his dream job.
It was a lot different from the normal trade; a little bit cleaner and you had to thinks about things, he said.
But when he asked mum Nerida if he could leave, she answered with a flat out no.
Today, the man tagged the Black Pearl due to his rich, silky smooth skills on the rugby league pitch, is grateful for her foresight.
He returned to Murgon State High School, met his now wife Elissa in Year 11 and starred as Buffalo Bill in the school production of Annie Get Your Gun.
Joining him on stage was classmate from Year 1 and future movie star, author and screen writer Leah Purcell.
It was just a great group of kids in those years, he said of the memories he deems to be the best in his life.
Eating all the sweets in the shop
Footy was not on his career radar at the time but his natural ability had him make the Queensland Schoolboys side.
Club offers flooded in as Steven neared graduation in 1987.
Newcastle and Sydney clubs beckoned but the opportunity to do an electrical apprenticeship at the Mater Hospital while playing with the Brisbane Broncos won out.
Steven trained with the club for two-three days a week before the true professional era kicked in in 1993.
Again he soared to the top and scored 11 tries in nine games for Australia, won two State of Origin series in 11 matches and won premierships with the Broncos in 1992, 93, 97 and 98.
Two more losing British grand finals followed with the Wigan Warriors before Steven retired in 2001.
Despite the sporting glory he ranks completing his apprenticeship as his proudest life accomplishment.
It was something I always wanted to do and I think people didnt expect me to finish, he says in explanation.
It was one of the proudest moments in my whole career.
Providing great future for people
On leaving the game, Steven worked as a Queensland Government sports and recreation ambassador for eight years before taking the role of Indigenous strategy manager for Aurizon Rail and Freight.
Aurizon is Australias largest rail and freight operator. The company hauls coal in Queensland and NSW and iron ore in Western Australia.
Steven coordinates education, employment, and job opportunities; cultural awareness and careers across all of Aurizon business units for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Its a big job that brings great responsibility and a lot of satisfaction.
When PaCE Matters asked if he found it satisfying Steven answered with an emphatic bloody oath.
When you get young kids involved in traineeships, apprenticeships, graduating from uni and getting a job they enjoy. it makes me proud that Ive been able to open an opportunity for our people in our company, Steven said.
As a people, we built the rail across Australia. At Aurizon, we steep ourselves in that pride. What runs on from that is we have a good history of employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Weve had generations of our mob working for the company.
School a must for peoples future
He is now thankful for his mum making him do the added schooling that led him to where he is today.
None of what he has done, or is doing, would have been possible without Steven going to school and those added two years were vital.
You need to be able to read, write and add up to have the sound basis to operate in the world, he said.
Without that, you struggle. We see it in with the kids we have coming to us at Aurizon.
Were getting a lot more coming through with the needed skills but we still have too many struggling with numeracy-literacy.
We see that first hand through the tests.
He then encouraged all parents and carers to send their children to school every day, on time.
Ive got five kids, three have left school, ones an electrician, ones a carpenter and my daughters going to UQ to study science and arts, he said.
Schools set them up for a happy life. Theyve given themselves a great start.
And a great future.