Round 24, 2021. St George Illawarra were at the back end of what would be an eight-game losing streak to finish the season.
Like so many others, it had started with promise to the tune of four wins from their opening five games before the wheels fell off.
Throw in the now infamous barbecue-gate, and it was a campaign as forgettable as all-too-many others in recent times.
But on that afternoon against the Cowboys in Rockhampton, there was one particular try that warmed the weary hearts of the Red V faithful.
On halfway, Jayden Sullivan went short side to Talatau Amone, who found Tyrell Sloan looming in support on the inside.
Into the clear, Sloan found Sullivan again, his former Steelers foil threading a grubber through for Zac Lomax to score.
That, they said, was a glimpse at the Dragons future. They'd ultimately surrender a 20-10 halftime lead inexplicably go down 38-26.
With that four-pointer, though, the long-suffering fans went away with something. Hope, of a brighter future spearheaded by this emerging trio.
The try was the sort of ad-lib, eyes-up, head-turning, unfettered passage of play they'd so often produced as Illawarra Steelers juniors.
After claiming the 2019 SG Ball crown, they'd long been touted as the future of the joint-venture. That try that sunny afternoon was seemingly proof of it.
How close the club came to being without all three of them within 18 months is the most intriguing storyline surrounding the club this season.
Sloan's 2022 season was tumultuous to say the least, punted from first grade twice inside 10 rounds and finishing the season a shadow of himself on the wing.
Sullivan's early season was plagued with injuries and, by the end of it, weary from tough defensive shifts in the middle of the park as a dummy-half, he wanted out.
They both requested releases from their contracts before mending some bridges with coach Anthony Griffin and the club.
It's something they both speak to with newfound maturity, with Sloan being up front publicly about his shift mindset heading into 2023.
It bore early fruit in his performance in round one, with Sullivan saying it was a conclusion they arrived at together.
"I definitely think he's changed his mindset and he's probably helped me a little bit too, I was probably in the same boat as him," Sullivan said.
"We go home together pretty much every day, or we'll sit on the train and just chat. It's easy to talk to him and Junz (Amone).
"When all that stuff was going on we all leant on each other and got each other through it. It's the type of kid Sloany is, he'll do anything for anybody.
"He's always there, he's always got your back and he'll never let you down. That's just Sloany.
'We definitely spoke about it and [said] there's no point kicking stones. We want to play first grade and show everyone that we can play first grade.
"It's now that we've got to find some self belief and know we can do it.
"It's probably turned out the best way. Sloany's started the season well, I got through healthy, and Junz is back playing footy."
Sullivan wasn't alone in welcoming Sloan's star turn against the Titans last week so soon after the 20-year-old was reduced to tears in the wake of a forgettable afternoon in the Charity Shield.
The scrutiny was inevitable given the murmurs of discontent that had followed the young guns into the offseason, with Sullivan saying the turnaround was testament to his mate's mental strength.
"He's one of my best mates and I see how hard he's worked," Sullivan said.
"When everyone else has finished training, he's out there catching 50 bombs. It shows how much he cares.
"He was obviously emotional after the Charity Shield because he knew that wasn't him. For him to come out in round one and be pretty much the best player on the field, I'm really proud of him and how he's going."
When Amone joins them on the park remains to be seen as he returns from an offseason plagued by legal dramas stemming from an alleged assault of a tradie near his home in November.
The NRL has lifted the no-fault stand-down it initially imposed when he was hit with police charges, but the matter will hang over him and the club at least until the matter is heard in court in August.
It may have them competing for NRL action once again, but Sullivan can't wait to reprise their triple-act at the top level.
"You want to play good footy and I feel like I play my best footy when they're next to me," Sullivan said.
"They're a year younger than me, we were lucky enough to play SG Ball together, and they're just freaks
"I feel like we're just scratching the surface of how good we can be. We've just got to knuckle down now and get after it."
Veteran teammate Moses Mbye admits to watching Sullivan and Sloan with a keen eye on their return to preseason given their well-publicised attempts to leave the club.
A junior standout for the Bulldogs coming through, Mbye knows a thing or two about how heavy the burden of expectation can be on young guns.
"I think we as fans and teammates, we probably don't have enough patience with those young guys who have endless amounts of potential," Mbye said.
"You know what they're going to be, you know what they're capable of, and you just want it out of them right now.
"It just doesn't work like that and we're probably a little bit responsible for putting that kind of pressure on them. As fans and teammates you want it from them now, we want it every week."
Having seen Sloan in particular struggle under that weight last season, Mbye feels a noticeable growth in maturity will put the Dapto product in a position to claim the jumper he'd long been touted for.
"It was hard to watch a little bit last year but I've been fortunate to spend a fair bit of time with Sloany over the last six months," Mbye said.
"I think he's stated publicly that he just looked in the mirror and realised that he was probably kicking stones at one point.
"It takes a lot of courage and a lot of maturity to admit that and it reflects the type of person that he is. We're starting to see the fruits now of what that extra 12 months will do for him.
"He's a guy who hasn't been given anything throughout his life. As a child into his adolescence and coming into being a young adult, he's had to earn everything he's got.
"That's going to pay him back in spades. I'll always appreciate him being a really good person rather than a really good football player.
"The byproduct of that is he's going to be a really quality player, and we got to see a glimpse of that last week."
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