Steven Marsters would look at his cousin Esan – a ball-running, try-scoring, goal-kicking brute – with envy and inspiration.
At the Wests Tigers, Esan is an emerging NRL powerhouse centre, having played 37 games since his debut last year. Esan has now played five Tests for New Zealand, scoring three times.
Three years his junior, Steven is headlong into his second pre-season, the door to a start in the big time creaking open after the departure of Nene Macdonald and Jason Nightingale.
The Dragons need a solution to their lack of depth and strike outwide, Marsters needs an opportunity.
After Esan moved from New Zealand to Sydney, all Steven wanted to do was follow his cousins path.
Then his moment came.
During a New Zealand indigenous tournament, then Dragons recruitment boss Peter Mulholland overheard Marsters behind the tryline, urging to his teammates to lift after conceding a try.
An hour later, Mulholland was chatting with Marsters’ parents about a career with St George Illawarra, impressed by his attitude to the game.
So he packed up and started with the Steelers’ Harold Matthews team and then two years at Thirroul, before coming into the full-time NRL squad.
“I always looked up to (Esan), I was attached to him as a kid,” Marsters told the Mercury this week.
“When he moved to Australia, I would say to mum, I want to move over and stay with him. And she kept saying, the only way you’re going to get over there is get a contract.
“Sure enough, when Peter Mulholland approached me, it just worked out.”
Playing in the under 20s last year, Marsters moved into the St George Illawarra NSW Premiership team.
Marsters worked closely with Jordan Pereira, who broke into the Dragons lineup last year. Earlier in the week, NSW representative forward Tariq Sims said he hoped the Dragons landed “one or two” signings to boost their backline stocks.
Coach Paul McGregor’s biggest headache will come regarding wing selections, after losing more than 350 games experience in Macdonald and Nightingale.
But Sims was also quick to acknowledge the potential of Marsters to follow Pereira into the NRL ranks.
“From what I’ve seen of him, he’s doing everything right, he just needs to find that extra 10 per cent and get his chance,” Sims said.
“You look at Jordan, he finally got his crack halfway through the year and you won’t find a harder worker than Jordan.
“He’s such a strong carrier of the ball. Sometimes his defensive reads aren’t the best, but he really makes up for it with his effort levels.
“I think with another pre-season (Pereira’s) going to go to another level and I’m excited to see what he can achieve.”
The Dragons play the Charity Shield against the Rabbitohs in Mudgee on March 2, before opening the season against the Cowboys on March 16.