The WA Reds car park resembled a luxury car dealership back in the Super League days. All the players, showered with money during the game's civil war, appeared to be in a competition to see who could turn up in the most ostentatious wheels. Except one.
''I'll never forget it,'' recalled Reds coach Peter Mullholland. ''The boys were pulling in in BMWs, Jeep Cherokees, Ford Falcon convertibles. We had some rock stars over there and all of these cars have turned up in the car park. And then all of a sudden, Mick Potter pulls up in a $2000 second-hand Mitsubishi Sigma with 200,000 kilometres on the clock.
''He just wanted to prove a point. It was the funniest and most salient thing he could have done.''
Michael Potter has a way of making an impression in his understated way. He is doing it at Wests Tigers, where the club is blooding the least experienced coach in the NRL after parting with its most experienced. If the former childcare centre owner is is in charge of a different breed of cubs. But if his rise up the coaching ranks is as rapid as those during his playing days, the joint-venture club is in good hands.
''He was a third-grade centre and I put him at fullback and he got the Dally M medal,'' two-time premiership winning coach Warren Ryan said of their association at Canterbury. ''We went away for our trip at the end of the year and he didn't have a sponsor's shirt, such was his meteoric rise.''
Had he been honest with Canterbury officials, Potter wouldn't have been on the plane. Or in first grade. The product of St Gregory's, Campbelltown - where he was first coached by Mullholland - played most of his junior footy in the centres. But he played only one game at Canterbury in the position, in the under-23s, as opportunities came in higher grades on the wing and at fullback.
''You have played at fullback before, haven't you?'' he was asked.
''I said, 'Yeah','' Potter admits now. ''But I'd never played there.''
It didn't seem to matter. He soon became the game's number one No.1 and still has the distinction of being the only man to win Dally M medals at two clubs, Canterbury and St George.
He might have told a little white lie, but it's impossible to question the now 49-year-old's integrity. For proof, look no further than his last job, with Bradford last year. Even when the Super League club imploded financially - ''They made redundant all of the administration staff except for two HR people and one apprentice in the office'' - he kept turning up. Eventually the Bulls found new owners but by then Potter was out of contract.
Such was his bond with the players, he worked the final five months for nothing. They would have played finals football had they not been docked for entering administration. ''It was the players who convinced me and the other coaching staff to stay,'' he said.
There have been other times when Potts has taken one for the team. In his first-grade debut, he was kneed in the ribs by Easts fullback Marty Gurr while diving over the line. The pain lingers to this day.
''I still can't lie down on a surfboard without getting real sore,'' Potter said. ''I've still got a big massive lump in my rib cartilage. I was out for the next four weeks. I couldn't bend over, couldn't cough.'' Despite the pain, he refused to leave the field in his debut. ''Tough kid, talented player,'' Phil Gould, a teammate on that day, said. ''He was very quiet and reserved, didn't say much. But inwardly very determined and tough.''
A year later, at the age of 19, Potter earned his first Dally M medal. And first premiership ring. He should have been too young to properly celebrate the achievements on Canterbury's end-of-season trip to New Orleans, Los Angeles and Hawaii, where the legal drinking age is 21. However, he might or might not have snuck into the odd licensed premises as Peter Tunks.
''This was before they had photo licences, you just had to remember the date of birth,'' Potter said, chuckling. '''Tunksy' didn't need one - he was big enough to talk his way through. It was a great experience. That holiday was worth more than my whole contract.''
While the Tigers players have nicknamed him 'Harry', they might be amused to learn that Potter answered to a very different moniker in his playing days. Former Dragons teammate Paul Osborne christened him Gorilla Biscuit.
''He came up with the name and I'm going 'How can you call someone Gorilla Biscuit'?'' Potter said, chuckling. ''Have a look at his head! He's the classic Gorilla Biscuit person.''
Mullholland, who spent a year convincing Potter to come out of retirement to come to the Reds, offered an anecdote from their days at St Gregory's.
''I just remember he kept breaking his dental plate,'' Mullholland said. ''He had two teeth knocked out and he'd hand me the plate before a match. I'd put it in my back pocket like an imbecile and sit on it. I reckon I broke it four times.''
The former NSW fullback has learnt from some of the great clipboard-holders, including Ryan, Gould and Brian Smith. But coaching was never an ambition during his playing days and he fell into the profession by accident.
Like most NRL players, he had a level-one coaching certificate when he received a call from then-Bradford mentor Matthew Elliott.
''I'd seen [during my player days] how many groups were at that coach, whether it be media, fans, other staff, players who don't get picked or wives of players who don't get picked,'' Potter said. ''There was always someone at the coach.''
However, he accepted a role as Elliott's assistant and the coaching bug bit. ''It was a spur of the moment thing,'' he said. ''In hindsight, I probably didn't think it all the way through.''