Ten years on from first meeting in the international arena, there's a good chance Saturday's Pacific Championships final will be the last time Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran get to play each other in a Test match.
The only remaining members of their respective national sides from the last tournament final staged in New Zealand back in 2014, the long-time Sea Eagles teammates and close friends face a battle with father time if they are to still be in the frame for the next trans-Tasman showdown in 2024.
DCE will turn 35 before the start of next season and Foran will be 34 by the time the next block of international matches arrive.
Even putting age aside, they've each had to defy the odds to still be playing for their countries in 2023, with Cherry-Evans bouncing back from being overlooked for last year's World Cup final and Foran having to reinvent himself as a hard-nosed hooker for the Kiwis in order to keep a spot in the 17.
With that in mind, if the final at FMG Stadium Waikato – which will be the fifth time the pair have faced off in a Test – does turn out to be the last, Cherry-Evans told NRL.com that neither he nor Foran would have anything to complain about.
"If it ended Saturday for us I'm sure we'd be quite content with where we have gone and where we have come from," Cherry-Evans said.
"I think for as long as we keep getting picked we are people that will happily keep playing for our country... those questions [about the future] are really hard to answer while you are playing still.
"The time will come when I'm not going to get picked and that's fine.
Foz (Foran) and I, we probably do need to start thinking about how long we have got left in the game and I guess an exit strategy.Daly Cherry-Evans
"It is a bit surreal [to still be playing him at this level]. We have been lucky to play a lot of first grade together to start off with and to have a great combination from the juniors at Manly."
While he's the younger of the two, it's Foran's continued presence on the international scene that is arguably most surprising.
A spate of injuries in recent years threatened to cut his career short, but despite the toll on his body he's continued to put his hand up for Kiwis selection at the end of each NRL campaign.
Next year, when he'll be back under the watch of Des Hasler, who handed both he and Cherry-Evans their shot in first grade, Foran will need just 18 appearances for the Gold Coast to reach 300 first-grade games.
Cherry-Evans says that in itself is a remarkable story of perseverance.
"What Foz has been through not just with injuries, but off field – he had a pretty turbulent middle part of his career – and it's nothing short of inspiring," he said.
"Dreaming big in the face of adversity, that's all he's done, he's just kept moving forward. I have so much admiration for what he has been able to do and push through.
"We have built a great friendship off the field and it's great that we are still mates now. That probably gives us a greater appreciation of what we see doing now, representing our country in our thirties."
Saturday's final will mark Cherry-Evans' 21st Test for Australia, while Foran will don the black jersey for the 31st time since his international debut back in 2009.
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