Parramatta hooker Reed Mahoney will play in the NRL grand final in his last game for the club after a journey that has taken him from the outhouse to the penthouse.
The 24-year-old will join Canterbury next year but celebrated his 100th game for the Eels with a 24-20 preliminary-final win over North Queensland in Townsville.
The former apprentice butcher played his first season in the NRL in 2018 when the club was at its lowest.
In the stifling heat in a hostile environment the Eels thwarted desperate Cowboys raids late on with true grit.
"When I first came into first grade we got the wooden spoon so we've come right up from the bottom when I first started," Mahoney said.
"I'll finish as a grand finalist and hopefully we can get the result.
"The heat was unreal. It just showed our mental toughness.
"It reminded me of those days before Christmas where it is 40-degree heat and you are running laps around the oval.
"You think 'why am I doing this?' I was looking at boys beside me and it was a bit of a flashback ... but there was no other way. I knew this group could get it done, it was just a matter of how."
Before his milestone match Mahoney had just one goal.
"I just wanted to win. I was willing to do anything to win. I can't wait to really enjoy this week with the fans and the boys," he said.
"To the families who came up here and all the fans, thank you."
The 24-year-old played his junior football on the Sunshine Coast for Kawana and Beerwah. His mentors and supporters in the early years will be on his mind ahead of a grand final with either Penrith or South Sydney next Sunday.
Mahoney said he had taken time to reflect and connect with all the "special people" who had helped him on the way to his 100th game.
"I'm very big on respecting where you've come from so I wanted to go out and play for them, myself and the boys," he said.
"Some of my best mates are at home on the Sunshine Coast.
"My mate's dad was my coach for a few years and there's my old boss that I keep in touch with regularly who took me on at 16 when I was an apprentice butcher.
"Those sort of people, and nan and pop who I don't often get to see and who are getting older now ... it was just great to see everyone back home is really proud of me."
Mahoney said playing in a grand final in his final match for the Eels had made his last wish at the club pretty simple.
"I want to go out a champion and so does everyone else in the sheds," he said.