Following a week of controversy at Manly, there were few better feel-good stories for the Sea Eagles than that of Alfred Smalley on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old marked his very first game in the NRL with a debut try for the makeshift Manly side, who went down to top-eight rivals the Roosters 20-10 at 4 Pines Park.
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On Monday, Smalley was working as a furniture removalist and could never have imagined that by Thursday night, he'd become the proud Manly club's newest try-scorer.
ON HIS DEBUT!
A very VERY big moment for Alfred Smalley.
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Smalley's opportunity only arose after seven Sea Eagles players boycotted the Roosters match in protest against wearing the rainbow-designed jerseys the club rolled out in the name of inclusivity.
The speedster was one of three debutants in the Manly side, with fellow winger Pio Seci and Zac Fulton - grandson of club legend and league Immortal Bob Fulton - also playing fore the first time in the NRL.
Smalley revealed after the game that the devastating loss of his mother in 2017 was a driving force behind the realisation of his dream on Thursday night.
The winger moved from New Zealand to south-west Sydney in 2017 to live with his aunt and play under-20s at Manly.
But less than a year into his move his mother Mary-Lisa died of a heart attack.
"I was 17," Smalley said.
"I'd just moved out of home and moved over here to play 20s and got the news that my mum passed away.
"I made a promise to my mum when I lost her in 2017 that I would still stay here and try to crack the NRL.
"And I'm so happy I've fulfilled that promise."
Alfred Smalley celebrates milestone moment with loved ones
Smalley and his siblings have since been raised by older sister Aieshaleigh, herself a former Kiwi Ferns and Warriors NRLW prop.
Making his try-scoring debut all the more sweet was the fact his loved ones were there front and centre to celebrate the special moment with the 23-year-old.
"To have them here, you dream of these things as a kid. I am so happy it came true.
"My family stayed back in New Zealand (in 2017), but they flew over my sister, brother and nephew (on Wednesday)."
Smalley admits he had to pinch himself after being left shocked the call on Monday night, to inform the winger he would be making his debut three days later.
'It didn't hit me when I found out on Monday," Smalley said.
"When I got (to the ground on Thursday night) that's when everything started to soak in. I ran out and I lost my breath, I couldn't breathe. It was so hectic.
"It's just crazy, unreal, pretty much a dream come through, I can't believe it.
"I'm still shocked to be honest."
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