Roosters rookie Mitchell Frei has credited Intrust Super Cup outfit Wynnum Manly for his eventual NRL debut in 2016 despite earlier stints in the lower grades at Brisbane and Newcastle.
Frei made his debut for the Roosters in Round 3, a memorable affair for the 24-year-old despite the Tricolours' 40-0 loss to reigning premiers North Queensland.
Frei said his dream of playing the NRL had never diminished after leaving the Knights to return to Queensland at the end of 2013.
“I spoke to Wynnum's coach Jon Buchanan, who I have known for a couple of years, when I arrived and told him that I'd love to play in the NRL and he said he was happy to help,” Frei told NRL.com.
“Besides that, it didn't matter what level I was playing footy. I was still going to play. I just love the game that much. It's one of those things I'll always be doing no matter what.
“I loved my time at Wynnum. It was a real good club and I definitely have to thank them for helping me get here.
“There are a lot of blokes in that competition too who have played at that level for a long time. Just playing against men too and experienced ones at that helped me get ready for the NRL. Not that anything can prepare you for it, but it's the closest thing.”
Frei's arrival at the Roosters late last year however was not necessarily driven by a need to play first-grade football.
“I feel pretty lucky [to play in the NRL]. It's something I've always wanted to do and now I've been able to tick it off the list it'll be something which will always mean a lot to me, but [coming to the Roosters] was never really about playing first grade,” he said.
“It was more so coming here and making the most of an experience. We have probably the best coaching staff in the NRL and having blokes like Aidan Guerra and Boyd Cordner, with me being inexperienced, it was about trying to learn as much as I could.”
The Albany Creek Crushers junior also said his trip to England for the World Club Series paid massive dividends in adding to his experience with the Roosters.
“To see for the first time how they do it at the Roosters in how they prepare for games is something I'll never forget either,” Frei said.
“At that particular point, being together for two weeks straight helped break down the barriers of being the new kid. It helped all my new friendships grow I think.”