Mark Nicholls never doubted whether he had the ability, but he did doubt whether it was worth pursuing his NRL dream.
Now, having twice gone about two years between games during his career, the South Sydney prop will play in just the Rabbitohs' second grand final in 50 years - against Penrith at Lang Park on Sunday, unless a coronavirus outbreak forces the game to be relocated to Townsville.
Nicholls has finally established himself in the NRL, taking nine years since his debut to bring up his 100th game.
That journey started with the Canberra Raiders, before shifting to the Melbourne Storm for two years and then finding a home at Souths.
He played just 19 games for the Raiders, which included a more than two-year gap between hit-outs in lime green from 2013-2015.
Having then switched to the Storm, Nicholls then endured almost the same wait before making his Melbourne debut in 2017.
But he's put that behind him to be part of what he describes as one of the most underrated packs in the NRL.
If it wasn't for Souths' starting front rowers Nicholls and Tevita Tatola then the Rabbitohs' star-studded backline wouldn't have been able to be as damaging as they have been.
They'll have that same job to do against the Penrith pack, led by James Fisher-Harris and Isaah Yeo - although it will be missing Tevita Pangai jnr (knee).
"There was twice in my career where I went nearly two years between NRL games so there was certainly times where I probably didn't doubt my ability, but maybe doubted whether it was worth it," Nicholls said.
"But at the end of the day I kept coming back to the fact I was doing what I wanted to do as a kid.
"I love playing footy and if I wasn't playing NRL I was going to go play Q Cup or NSW Cup, or the highest level I could because I enjoyed playing the game and being around my mates."
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It will be the second time the Rabbitohs have played Penrith this finals campaign, having knocked off the Panthers 16-10 in the first week of the play-offs.
That saw the Bunnies installed alongside the Storm as premiership favourites, while also writing off the Panthers' hopes.
Penrith have since bounced back with wins over Parramatta and Melbourne as they look to go one step further than last year's grand final loss.
Souths are looking for their first premiership since 2014 and just their second since 1971.
While their last meeting was three weeks ago, Nicholls said they still took something out of it.
"Belief. We got the job done, but at the end of the day we know they're going to come better prepared than they did," he said.
"The stakes are higher than week one and I'm sure the intensity's going to be higher too."
NRL GRAND FINAL
Sunday: Penrith Panthers v South Sydney Rabbitohs at Lang Park, 7.30pm.