It's a tick after 6am on an icy Canberra morning and 84-year-old Garry Quinlivan is already downstairs with a door wide open at ACT Brumbies headquarters.
"I tried to buy him a heater," Brumbies chief executive Phil Thomson says.
"He won't have it. Tells me to spend money on rugby."
This is "Quinzo", the throat cancer survivor who has been here since day one in 1996. The assistant team manager speaks through an artificial voice box and has never been on board for any attention.
So much so that Thomson had to drag him out for a photo of all the Brumbies staff and players before their Super Rugby AU grand final appearance against the Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
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He'd rather spend his time loading up his John Deere buggy, complete with an "OLDFART" licence plate, so he can race around Brumbies headquarters to prepare everything for training sessions. Scrumhalf Nic White says he is always the first one in and the last one out.
Just like he was on the eve of the club's first game against Transvaal in 1996, when Thomson was team manager and Quinlivan was his right hand man.
Nobody quite understood the phenomenon that was emerging in professional rugby union 25 years ago, not even then-boss Mark Sinderberry days out from a pre-season tour to Japan.
So Thomson got the call, took 12 months leave without pay from his role in the police force's drug squad, and never went back.
"We really didn't know what we were doing," Thomson says from a table out the back of a Bruce cafe.
"No one had really written the manual on how to organise and manage a professional rugby team. Every day was a learning experience for us and it continues to be.
"When I ran around here with local rugby he was tied up with the club I played with, Royals. My father actually worked with him in customs for years so I knew him for a long time.
"He's like a father figure to me, a mentor, the heart and soul of what the organisation is about. It's all about the people and he typifies that right to now, 25 years later.
"Every day he is in there doing all of those things behind the scenes that no one sees. He's there at 6.30 every morning, getting everything ready for his boys as he calls them, everyone that comes through the Brumbies is his boy.
"That's from Brumby 229 Issak Fines right back. It's never been about Quinzo, it's always been about the players and the club, what's best for the Brumbies.
"The culture and the values of the organisation stem from people like Quinzo."
Yet for 25 years in the game there has never been one quite like this. Bushfire smoke forced players and coaches to relocate to Newcastle in January. The mumps. Games have been played in a state of emergency.
Jokes about what would come next were cruelly answered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thomson says there have been that many twists and turns "you could probably make a great little mini-series of it".
Through it all he has remained steadfast in his desire to keep the club on track. Now they sit on the cusp of history leading into the first grand final on home soil in 16 years.
"We talk about it being a long year for the coaches and the players, I'd imagine there have been plenty of sleepless nights for Phil," Brumbies coach Dan McKellar says.
"There has never been a more challenging year, and Phil Thomson's leadership and direction has allowed us as a club to maintain a really strong sense of stability.
"I can't speak highly enough of Thomo. He has been the team manager, he was Eddie Jones' right hand man. He knows what we need as a football team to be successful, he knows what we need as a club to be successful.
"It's been tough for him, it's been a long year. We're blessed to have Thomo leading the club."
SUPER RUGBY AU GRAND FINAL
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm.
Brumbies squad: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Murray Douglas, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Lachlan McCaffrey, 7. Will Miller, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Connal McInerney, 17. James Slipper, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Rob Valetini, 21. Nic White, 22. Bayley Kuenzle, 23. Solomone Kata.
Reds squad: 1. JP Smith, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Angus Blyth, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Liam Wright (c), 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Harry Wilson, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. James O'Connor, 11. Filipo Daugunu, 12. Hamish Stewart, 13. Hunter Paisami, 14. Jordan Petaia, 15. Jock Campbell. Replacements: 16. Josh Nasser, 17. Harry Hoopert, 18. Ruan Smith, 19. Tuaina Taii Tualima, 20. Angus Scott-Young, 21. Moses Sorovi, 22. Bryce Hegarty, 23. Jack Hardy.