Wind back the clock three years and there was "no way" Noah Lolesio would expect to be on such a grand stage.
He arrived in Canberra with little more guaranteed than a shot at the Tuggeranong Vikings and late nights spent studying a double degree in psychology and sports exercise science.
Today he is a Wallaby, and the ACT Brumbies' first-choice playmaker chasing back-to-back Super Rugby AU titles against the Queensland Reds at Lang Park on Saturday.
But not everything has changed. The 21-year-old is still studying psychology. It's an outlet from football on days off.
"It's either that or golf, and I'm terrible at golf, so it's study," Lolesio laughed.
MORE RUGBY UNION
"Golf has been a big sport on our days off. Tom Banks, Jahrome Brown is unreal, Folau Fainga'a, somehow he does it, I don't know how, I'm very jealous.
"We always go on our days off. It's good to get away from footy and just play another sport we're not that good at."
Because anyone who has watched a Lolesio highlights package knows what this Southport School graduate is capable of.
"Everything just happened so quickly," Lolesio said.
"I'll definitely take a moment when I get up there and realise I've grown up playing rugby here and get to play in front of all my family and friends, because I didn't really get that opportunity last year in a grand final."
Which is why Lolesio has a big clan heading to Brisbane for the decider. So too will a host of Brumbies hailing from the sunshine state. Think coach Dan McKellar, Andy Muirhead, Len Ikitau, Darcy Swain, Tom Banks.
Among Lolesio's crowd are his parents Robert and Sarah, his younger sister Ivana - a budding sevens star - and their older brother Ethan, who is "keeping us all in line". Needless to say, they're counting down the minutes.
Because last year's decider at Canberra Stadium was played in front of 6000 people, forcing some family members to watch from afar.
Lolesio had not played a game in 64 days before returning to lead the Brumbies to a drought-breaking triumph on home soil, paving the way for a Wallabies debut soon after.
It capped off a whirlwind journey for an emerging rugby player who arrived in Canberra with little more than Brumbies academy gear and a spot at the Tuggeranong Vikings guaranteed.
"Honestly I just felt like I needed to get out of my comfort zone a bit," Lolesio said.
"I felt like I was getting too comfortable on the Gold Coast with all my family. It would have been good to stay with all my family and friends.
"To be honest, I wasn't really promised anything when I moved down here. It was just: train with academy, play for Vikings, work and study full-time.
"Uni was one of my first priorities moving down here. Vikings Rugby were awesome to me, they accommodated me. It was my first time playing 10 here too, so it happened pretty quickly after that.
"I wasn't really a schoolboy superstar as they call them nowadays, I would just put my head down and do the work.
"I got signed to a development contract a year after I'd been here and the rest is history."
SUPER RUGBY AU FINAL
Saturday: Queensland Reds v ACT Brumbies at Lang Park, 7.45pm. Broadcast: Live on Stan Sport and 9Gem. Tickets from Ticketek.
ACT Brumbies squad: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Lachlan Lonergan, 3. Allan Alaalatoa (c), 4. Darcy Swain, 5. Cadeyrn Neville, 6. Nick Frost, 7. Rory Scott, 8. Rob Valetini, 9. Nic White, 10. Noah Lolesio, 11. Tom Wright, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Len Ikitau, 14. Andy Muirhead, 15. Tom Banks. Replacements: 16. Folau Fainga'a, 17. Harry Lloyd, 18. Tom Ross, 19. Henry Stowers, 20. Luke Reimer, 21. Ryan Lonergan, 22. Reesjan Pasitoa, 23. Mack Hansen.
Queensland Reds squad: 1. Feao Fotuaika, 2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 3. Taniela Tupou, 4. Ryan Smith, 5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 6. Angus Scott-Young, 7. Fraser McReight, 8. Harry Wilson, 9. Tate McDermott, 10. James O'Connor (c), 11. Jock Campbell, 12. Hamish Stewart, 13. Josh Flook, 14. Jordan Petaia, 15. Bryce Hegarty. Replacements: 16. Alex Mafi, 17. Dane Zander, 18. Zane Nonggorr, 19. Seru Uru, 20. Liam Wright, 21. Kalani Thomas, 22. Isaac Henry, 23. Filipo Daugunu.
*The Brumbies are offering a package for fans including a charter flight to and from Brisbane, a ticket to the final, and one night's accommodation. Secure your seat here.
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