Dan McKellar reckons it was about the time he was packing down at loosehead prop for Souths' colts side in Brisbane.
He had come to know a bit about this flyhalf at Sunnybank, a big bugger who could kick the ball a mile.
"He was the sort of bloke who gets white line fever and I'm probably no different to be honest with you," McKellar grinned.
So as far as run-ins go, "yeah, we had a couple". But little did either man know their rugby journeys would lead them to a Super Rugby AU qualifying final at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.
McKellar, of course, is at the helm of the ACT Brumbies. The man coaching the Western Force is that same dangerous playmaker from Sunnybank: Tim Sampson.
MORE RUGBY UNION
Some 24 years have passed since the pair first collided in Brisbane's club rugby scene. McKellar would play more than 150 games at Souths, winning a premiership in 2000. Sampson steered Sunnybank to a pair of titles later that decade, and never did either take a backward step.
"I remember having a beer with Timmy and a mutual friend of ours, Dan McConachie, one Saturday night. It was all very peaceful," McKellar said.
"Then we played against each other the following Saturday and the competitive edge was certainly shown."
Their long relationship adds another layer of intrigue to the sudden-death final between two clubs already boasting the foundations of a rivalry.
There's the Brumbies' win over the Force in their final Super Rugby game in 2017, Matt Giteau's defection to Perth and eventual return to Canberra, and David Pocock leaving the Force for Canberra.
But all of that took a backseat when McKellar and Sampson took a walk down memory lane at Viking Park in Tuggeranong this week, the latter glancing to the coaches box and saying "I was chewing on muffins and pies up there back in the day".
This is where their rugby path took a turn. McKellar and Sampson had both graduated into the coaching ranks in Brisbane.
"I remember talking to Timmy about coming to Souths years ago to be an assistant coach of mine," McKellar said.
"We caught up for a coffee, jeez, that was probably just before I accepted the position here to be honest."
The Tuggeranong Vikings came calling in 2010, looking for someone to lead their John I Dent Cup side. McKellar's family made "an incredible sacrifice", uprooting their lives to move to Canberra so he could coach full-time.
Four years later he was in the Brumbies set-up as an assistant to Stephen Larkham. Twelve months later the Vikings were again on the lookout for a new coach, and Sampson was their man.
"I spoke to him a lot about Tuggeranong, the club and the job he was walking into," McKellar said.
"When I was in the acting head coach role and Steve Larkham was with the Wallabies, Tim did a pre-season with us as an assistant coach."
McKellar took the head coaching reins in Canberra in 2018. That same year Sampson's phone rang with a Western Australian number.
He was three beers deep at a Vikings function but had an idea of what it was about, so Sampson asked if he could chat in the morning. Because when a billionaire calls, you don't tend to miss it.
"With opportunities, you take them when they're there," Sampson said.
"Back then, it is something I would never have thought would have happened, to be here today and with this game on the weekend.
"There was a little bit of uncertainty with me leaving here, with how the long game was going to look over there. I had to just love the vision of what Andrew Forrest was selling to me then, and Matt Hodgson, and here we are today."
SUPER RUGBY AU QUALIFYING FINAL
Saturday: ACT Brumbies v Western Force at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm. Tickets from Ticketek. Broadcast: Live on Gem and Stan Sport.
ACT Brumbies squad: 1. James Slipper, 2. Folau Fainga'a, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Rob Valetini, 7. Rory Scott, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Nic White, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Lachlan Lonergan, 17. Scott Sio, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Nick Frost, 20. Luke Reimer, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Mack Hansen.
Western Force squad: 1. Tom Robertson, 2. Feleti Kaitu'u, 3. Santiago Medrano, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 5. Sitaleki Timani, 6. Fergus Lee-Warner, 7. Kane Koteka, 8. Brynard Stander, 9. Tomas Cubelli, 10. Domingo Miotto, 11. Jorda Olowofela, 12. Kyle Godwin (c), 13. Richard Kahui, 14. Toni Pulu, 15. Jake Strachan. Replacements: 16. Andrew Ready, 17. Angus Wagner, 18. Greg Holmes, 19. Ryan McCauley, 20. Tim Anstee, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Henry Taefu, 23. Jack McGregor.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: