If Sydney Roosters forward Aidan Guerra was born three years later, he could easily be running onto Allianz Stadium for North Queensland to face the Tri-colours on Saturday night.
A proud Townsville product, Guerra attended the famed Ignatius Park College in North Queensland but was a victim of rugby league circumstance in the region.
Guerra, who has gone on to play 10 State of Origins for Queensland, came through the Cowboys' system just three years before the NRL had introduced the national under-20s competition.
It meant players finished their junior representative football in under-18s, and were thrust into senior football or reserve grade if they were going to make it at NRL level.
"They said physically said I wasn't up to that level - and I wasn't" Guerra said.
"I may not have been good enough at that stage.
"Development is pretty easy up there, everyone loves their footy. But I can see that it's really thrived since the under-20s competition has come in."
Guerra is no doubt one of those kids who could have benefited from a proper bridging competition.
With a roadblock between him and the NRL, he headed to Brisbane as a 17-year-old to play in the Colts competition in 2005.
"Melbourne had a feeder club there," he said.
"I played a couple of years at Brissy Norths and physically probably got closer to where I needed to be to be part of a first grade squad when I was in Melbourne."
Again, injuries let him down, and it wasn't until he signed with the Roosters that he had come close to proper development and debuted at age 22.
But his upbringing means he knows better than anyone else in the Roosters camp what kind of rollercoaster the Cowboys have gone through in the past month.
The team have become rock stars in Townsville, cheered on by hundreds at every airport arrival and departure as they continue their remarkable run through the NRL finals series.
"It's pretty crazy," Guerra said.
"I remember I was living in Townsville during that grand final drive in 2005.
"It's hard to explain. Everything is football up there. There is no AFL, there's no soccer, it's all rugby league and it's all Cowboys.
"I think that's what's made them turn into such a powerhouse on the field, because that town has so much pride in them and they know that."
Saturday night's preliminary final will represent even more significance to the one-time Australian Test representative.
A win will gift him a grand final farewell before he join Newcastle on a three-year deal for the next season, while a loss will signal the end of the 29-year-old's career at the Roosters.
"Definitely every game is that little bit more special," he said.
"At this time of year you're always trying to play your best but it's definitely in the back of my mind that every game could be my last for the Roosters."
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