RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS
When Illawarra Cutters coach Scott Logan first set eyes on hulking prop Rory O'Brien, he knew he was something special.
Then coaching Collegians in the Illawarra Coal League, it took Logan just one trial match to decide that the former Dragons under 20s star's stint in the Coal League wouldn't last long.
"I knew after the first trial at Collies last year. I went home to my wife and said 'there's a guy that's playing with me that shouldn't be with me'," Logan recalls.
Logan's assessment proved on the money, with O'Brien spearheading Collies to a premiership en route to Country Player of the Year honours. It earned him a part-time deal with the Illawarra Cutters this year that, in June, blossomed into a two-year full-time contract with the Dragons NRL squad.
For O'Brien, it's a second chance at the NRL dream he thought he'd let slip five years ago when, as a young father, he abruptly gave rugby league away after deciding he couldn't gamble on the future of his young family.
"Yeah, at the time I'd given up on it [NRL]. If it wasn't going to happen then I was thinking it's not going to happen at all," O'Brien said.
"I had a child who was just born. I wasn't working at the time so I was relying on my 20s money, which wasn't really helping. I had to financially try to look after my family and at the time footy wasn't doing that so I had to look elsewhere.
"We had a good year that year [in the under 20s] and I was getting looked at by the top grade but at the time I just wasn't ready for it."
Despite passing on his shot at the big time, O'Brien never lost his love for the game, and credits his 2013 premiership winning season with Collegians for reviving his dream.
"I stopped playing when I was 19. I played a bit of park footy just to muck around with my mates but I played with Collies last year," O'Brien
"It was good footy and we had a good team. We had a good squad with some young guys and some old heads and we were getting coached well by Scotty Logan. He's the one who sort of pushed me towards the Cutters and gave me that shot."
At 25, the Hurstville United junior has had to wait a little longer than most for his shot at the NRL but he feels this time around, he has a greater appreciation for the chance.
"I was just a kid before but now I've been out in the real world I know what it's like and I know this is a great opportunity," he said.
"How it's unravelled has been pretty unreal. It's all happened pretty fast but it's a great opportunity for myself and my family and it gives me a shot to play in the big league, which is what I want.
"I gave footy another chance and it's paid off and I can't wait to hopefully play some NRL games."