Jim Martin knew there was something special about the bright-eyed 14-year-old he was coaching at St Mary's High.
He'd heard about this wunderkid, who was already playing open age schoolboys rugby league against boys much older and larger.
One day under Martin's tutelage, St Mary's won a penalty about 20m out from their opponents goal line. The young boys pointed to the goalposts suggesting his side would be taking the two, but at the same time he told the referee he would be taking a quick tap.
Brad Fittler did just that, and ran over untouched for a try.
Martin, who had also taught Fittler history in his early high-school years, still rates him as the most talented schoolboy he's ever coached.
"I used to try and get him to work in history. . .he would say 'I'm going to play for Australia in footy'," Martin recalls.
"He's sitting in the corner, I'd say 'Come on Brad, this is really important stuff', and he'd say 'Not as far as rugby league is concerned'."
Another of Martin's ex-students contacted Fittler last week, informing the NSW Blues coach his old mentor was battling some serious health problems.
Queanbeyan man Nick Risteski, better known as Raider Nick as part of the Raiders on Mix radio program, wanted to make a video to lift Martin's spirits during his relentless schedule of cancer treatment.
Risteski reached out to Fittler along with a raft of Martin's former students, including Dave Lidiard, Ben Rauter, Trevor Thurling and Brent Kite.
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Within 24 hours they'd all recorded a video message which Risteski massaged into a moving six-minute tribute that he shared with Martin via social media late on Sunday night.
Tommy Raudonikis who played for Martin's beloved Wests Magpies also shares a message of support, as does Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire.
"If I learned anything from you, it's never give up," Fittler says to Martin on the video.
"Keep punching Jimmy and we'll do the same at the Blues."
Within an hour Risteski's video had been shared myriad times across Facebook, and seen by hundreds of former students and staff who Martin has influenced in a teaching career spanning more than four decades.
"I was overwhelmed, a lot of emotions," Martin said.
"I appreciate the sentiment but I thought well there's so many teachers that have been instrumental in helping students, it's what we do, it's just part of our make up as far as being teachers.
"There are so many more people that are suffering out there. It's really nice, the Queanbeyan community has been so supportive."
Martin sat down in his urologist's office in 2019 and was blindsided with the news no one ever wants to hear.
"The first thing he said to me was 'You've got five years to live'," Martin says.
"I was going to pilates after that, I just sat there and I was numb. I rang my wife, I said I'll be right, I'll drive home but I was driving in a daze."
It had already been a rough year for Martin, who had required four different surgeries prior to the earth-shattering cancer diagnosis.
Two weeks later the same urologist came running out of another appointment to tell Martin he had the 'good cancer', and that his initial prognosis of a five-year lifespan was potentially a little premature.
Martin has courageously battled the disease ever since. Initially he was blasted with chemotherapy, and now he undergoes radiotherapy every second Thursday with the aim of stopping the cancer spreading to his organs.
If it remains confined to his bones, he could live for several more years.
He recently learned the cancer had spread to the top of his femur, which puts him at a heightened risk of breaking the bone. But in typical Martin fashion, he refuses to lie down.
His other passion has always been cricket, and he recently received acknowledgement from Cricket Australia for 50 years of continuous service to the sport. He's even managed to play a handful of games this summer, and will head to Port Macquarie later this year with the over-70s team as their scorer.
"He's made such a difference in people's lives and you can tell by the response of that video," Risteski said.
"If he ever felt a little bit flat one day and a bit bleak and dark one day he can turn that video on to pump his tyres back up and turn the lights back on.
"He just had the perfect balance of running the hard line when it was required, and I saw him running the hard line in the classroom, I saw him running the hard line on the field. But he'd get the best out of you.
"I hated history. But because I had him I wanted to do well for him. . .I came fourth in the whole year.
"On the footy field he made me captain. He brought this leadership quality out of me which I still hold to this day.
"It wasn't just 'Oh mate here's a clipboard, you love the Wests Magpies, go and coach a footy team'. He was calculated in everything that he did and the kids that he coached and he taught are living those values to this day."
Martin's school coaching achievements were legendary.
After a successful start to his teaching career at St Mary's, he moved to Queanbeyan High School in 1991 and soon after took over the school's rugby league program.
Year after year Queanbeyan High punched above its weight against some of the strongest rugby league schools in the country, such as Endeavour and Westfields Sports Highs.
In the 1998 state-wide Under-14s Buckley Shield tournament, Martin's team, led by Thurling, made it through to the quarter finals before being knocked out by Endeavour.
The following year Martin did even better, coaching his team to the final of the 297-team knockout competition.
Queanbeyan High School won its round of 32 game against Shoalhaven High, a day after Martin received the news his father had passed away. True to form he put his students first, and took them down to Nowra for the match.
Martin's team then mowed down Westfields, Doonside High, and a Farrer Agricultural Memorial side which included Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, before going down to Endeavour in the final at Win Stadium.
That team was captained by future NSW prop Justin Poore.
"I loved teaching at Queanbeyan High and the kids were fantastic," Martin said.
"I used to take the kids down to the Bicentennial Hall when all the photos of the Hall of Fame were up there. It was just so impressive. It reminded me so much of the school I went to in the west of Sydney, and the kids were very similar."
Perhaps Thurling sums him up best.
"I'd never really had a coach like that - he became a bit of a role model for all the students," Thurling said.
"Because we were successful teams in all the Canberra comps and when we pushed on and challenged in the state cups, it just made it a special relationship everyone had with him.
"He's taught so many people and coached so many people. . .and he's got such a good memory and tells every story bit by bit. It's so engaging listening to the experiences he's had in his life. It's very sad news.
"When I got my contract at the [Canterbury] Bulldogs [in 2002], I made an effort to go back to a couple of people and inform them that I was moving to Sydney to play football.
"I went back and saw Marto because he had such a big part in my junior career coming through."