BMX kid who became Maroons hitman
When you first meet Dylan Napa – your mind wants to reflect on what you remember about Peter Pan; someone young at heart and with a childlike sense of bewilderment about the world at large – the veritable boy who never grew up.
Remarkably, however, Napa is one of the more senior members of the Queensland Maroons forward pack, despite only debuting in Game I last year; and will be looked on to provide leadership against a NSW side full of confidence and more importantly, free of the burdens of recent defeats.
"I needed to be (a leader) last year; you know, if you are playing in the front row, you are in the front line and you naturally have to be a leader," Napa told QRL Media upon his selection into the Game I Maroons squad.
"(You) always want to take the first hit-up. First hit-up, or first tackle.
"I wouldn't say I will be changing anything from the way I approached last year's game to this year's.
"I have just got to do what I do."
On the field he is a fearsome competitor who can be counted on to never take a backwards step; but off the field; he is known as a bit of a gentle giant and one who admits his biggest fear is disappointing his mother, Karen.
An accomplished BMX rider in his younger days (until he inevitably outgrew his bike); he took a laidback approach to rugby league early in his life until he was discovered playing for the Norths Devils in the Under 18 Mal Meninga Cup competition, from where he was quickly signed by the Sydney Roosters.
He got his first taste of representative football early in his career as well; being selected to play for the Cook Islands in a Test in 2013, his debut year of NRL.
"I was lucky enough to get the chance to represent Cook Islands which is my dad's (Stan Napa) heritage which I know he was extremely proud of and I was extremely proud of too," Napa said, looking back on the honour.
"I am still really close mates with a lot of the guys I played with then ... we still have the What's App group and we still catch up and still talk about things that happened.
"I am just fortunate that I have been able to wear my last name on a Cook Islands jersey and obviously now a Queensland jersey.
"Hopefully I can represent my mum (Australia) one day."
Looking back at his childhood, he said he was "just a classic kid" who would run amok and keep his mum on her toes as he tried to stay out of trouble.
"I was the kind of kid who would have a go at anything – not necessarily be good at anything, but give it a go and try and get out there and play with my mates; like any kid – just want to be out there having fun."
He still likes to have fun and be a prankster (or pest!) around the team – but he knows he is one of select group of people who have been chosen to play for Queensland and he has already proven just how seriously he takes on that role.
However, Napa is one who will perform all his responsibilities with a twinkle in his eye and gusto of a child seeking their next adventure.
"This is what I live for. These sorts of moments with the boys. Camps and laughing and training," he said.
"I feel really comfortable ... but (on game night) I will be doing everything I can for the team, that's for sure."