Seven years ago Luke Keary was in the Manly lower grades wanting to follow in the footsteps of Daly Cherry-Evans and now he can't wait to line up alongside him in the halves for Australia on Saturday in what will be his Test debut.
Keary, called in to the Kangaroos squad to take on the Kiwis in Auckland after Cameron Munster's withdrawal due to personal reasons, was in the Sea Eagles SG Ball side back in 2011 when Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran were forging a premiership winning halves combination.
Keary, now 26, had to bash down the door to get a start in the NRL after being overlooked by Manly and the Titans but now he will line up alongside the Sea Eagles captain as a two-time premiership winner and one of the game's leading playmakers.
A long-time admirer of Cherry-Evans' play, Keary was confident he would complement the Australian half against the Kiwis.
"I looked up to him and Kieran [Foran], being at the same club, so it is really good to get the chance to play alongside him," Keary said.
"I'm excited. I think he is a great player. He's played Test and Origin footy and I've watched him since I came into first grade. He's got a lot of good attributes to his game and I think his style of play should suit the way I like to footy.
"[Munster] is obviously a great player too but I can try and manage the game well. I have done a lot of kicking in the last couple of months with Coops (Cooper Cronk) so just bring a bit of that, try and bring a bit of energy on the field and do my job."
The Kangaroos hierarchy believe Keary will be a perfect foil for the free-running Cherry-Evans with his game management and kicking game going to another level at the Roosters this year.
Keary, the Clive Churchill Medal winner in the NRL grand final, has put in the hard work himself but the influence of Cooper Cronk has also been crucial in his progress.
"I just tried to work hard on all areas, and having guys like Cooper come in this year has helped me identify a few areas, work on them and try to get better," Keary said.
"[Cronk] understands footy really well, he has done it at the highest level for 15 years. He doesn't force things on you but you can pick up little things from him if you take notice.
"We have done a lot of work on our kicking game, and the management of a football game where he is probably the best at it in the business."
Keary was resting on his couch on Sunday when he got the call-up to join the Kangaroos camp in Brisbane.
"I'm pumped to be here, really excited," Keary said.
"I've always dreamt of playing in an arena like this and I can't wait to play."
Keary proved in the grand final, where Cronk's involvement was limited due to injury, that he is a man for the big occasion. He was matter of fact when asked about his capacity to do what others may not have considered in his reach, and keen to embrace another challenge against New Zealand.
"You get put in different situations in any stage of your life and, it could be any circumstance, but you find out what you can and can't do when you get put in those situations," Keary said.
"There are a lot of smart football people here and I am going to learn a lot, off coaches and players. I'm excited to take it all in and see what I can get out of it."