After injuries, doubts and a detour into the classroom, Melbourne Storm utility Chris Lewis made his belated NRL debut on Friday night.
Via Roy Ward / SMH.
At the age of 27 he was the oldest player to debut in Storm colours and he waited until the last five minutes to get on field, but it was worth the wait for two of his biggest supporters.
Without crowds, Storm found a novel way to get Lewis's parents Mick and Pauleen into AAMI Park.
The club made them the designated ball retrievers, and they chased errant balls between plays.
The retired teachers had driven eight hours to Sydney from their home in the tiny northern NSW town of Ashford, then flown to Melbourne for the game.
TV cameras caught Lewis with a beaming smile when he ran on; what audiences couldn't see was that he was smiling at his mum, sitting alone in the stands.
"They drove me ridiculous distances when I was a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere," Lewis said post game.
"They have been a massive part of my football career. They paid for two knee reconstructions, a shoulder reconstruction and an ankle reconstruction so they have been amazing for me.
"To have them here on such a special night was a really big deal."
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