North Queensland local Reuben Cotter will make his debut from the bench against the Manly Sea Eagles on Saturday night after fighting back from three seasons ruined by ACL injuries.
The 20-year-old Mackay product said he was in tears trying to relay the good news to his family after coach Paul Green named him in the side.
"I couldn't believe it at first - it took a while to sink in, I don’t think it has sunk in just yet," Cotter said.
"It's been a huge dream of mine ever since I was a little kid, especially after a few years off, it was great to get the news."
When Cotter received the news, it was his Dad he called first to give him the good news.
"It was a pretty emotional phone call. When I told him, I got halfway through my sentence and started crying. He knew what it was straight away."
The Sarina Crocs junior expects his whole family to come up from Mackay for the match on Saturday, made even more special the fact that he debuts in front of a home crowd.
"Probably the whole eastern stand [will be filled with family]," joked Cotter.
"It’ll probably be a big one to remember. I think every young kid would wish for a home debut and to be so close to home, with everyone that’ll come up it’ll be pretty exciting."
His pathway to the top grade wasn’t easy. Cotter suffered not one but two ACL injuries, his persistence paying off after he fought his way back and earned a promotion to the Cowboys NRL development squad in 2016.
"You can tend to think negatively sometimes when things like this happen, especially back-to-back like the way it did," Cotter said.
"But I was lucky enough to have the club behind me.
"I'm super grateful for how much faith they've [Cowboys] put in me. It makes it a lot easier especially with the family support.
"I knew that if I just stayed committed to what I was going through here at the club and stayed committed off the field, I felt confident in my ability. My family gave me a lot of assurance and so did the club. I'm happy to be finally at this stage in my career."
Cotter will want to impress Green this weekend with a solid performance, hoping that by doing his job and focusing on his role will be enough to stay in the team long-term.
"I’ve just got to steer clear [of thinking about it too much] and just focus on doing my job for the team," he added.
Cotter said his teammates' reactions to the news he made the side were pleasing.
"They were pretty stoked for me. It’s always good especially with blokes like Cliffo (Jake Clifford) and Dunny (Mitch Dunn) that I’ve come up through the junior rep sides and played footy with. It makes it all the more special that they’ll be out there on the field with me Saturday night," he said.
Cotter believed his strong start to the season with the Mackay Cutters in the Intrust Super Cup has led to him being chosen this weekend.
"I've been happy with my performance throughout the first few rounds, but I think there's always room for me to develop my game and I've been enjoying Q Cup footy," he added.