Before they were electrifying the NRL, Ryan Papenhuyzen's family billeted Kalyn Ponga during an Australian touch football tournament.
The flying fullbacks will clash on Saturday when Papenhuyzen's Storm face Ponga's unbeaten Knights at Central Coast Stadium.
Papenhuyzen, who turned 22 on Wednesday, remembers first coming across Ponga at a national under 15s rugby league carnival in 2012.
"He was unbelievable back then as well, great footwork. He was a standout in the tournament, made the merit Australian side," Papenhuyzen said.
It wasn't until 2015 when Papenhuyzen welcomed the Queensland-based Ponga into his Sydney home as they represented Australia in an under 18s trans-Tasman touch tournament, that they bonded.
"We [still] chat every now and then," Papenhuyzen said.
Papenhuyzen to put rivalry ahead of mateship
"It was pretty cool how we've known each other all the way through but then when we billeted him during the touch carnival, that's when it sort of became 'cool, we're mates now, we share the same interests and have the same dreams and hopes'. That's when it all started."
After starring in that touch tournament, Papenhuyzen and Ponga wore the green-and-gold together again last year in the Junior Kangaroos and Australian World Cup 9s teams.
Having seen Ponga's brilliance from a young age, Papenhuyzen is wary ahead of their meeting this weekend.
"He's something else. We're going to have to do a good job on him because he's one of the most dangerous players in the comp," he said.
Knights v Storm - Round 5
"If we give him any sort of room, I'm sure he'll make us pay for it. It's good to come up against him but we'll have to shut him down."
And don't expect any banter on the field from Papenhuyzen.
"I'm not someone who really gives it out during a game because he can pull my pants down," he laughed.
"I think we'll just play, be competitive as we usually are, and then after it we'll shake hands and be mates."
Papenhuyzen described Newcastle, who sit second on the ladder with three wins and a draw, as having been "probably the most impressive" team in 2020.
"I think this is probably the benchmark game this week," he said.
"If we're going to test ourselves and see where we're at, it's probably against them. I think the Knights are a good team to get an indicator."
Melbourne, fifth after last week's win over South Sydney, have named Ryley Jacks at halfback in place of the injured Jahrome Hughes (broken hand).
But Papenhuyzen said Cooper Johns and Nicho Hynes, who are both included on an extended bench, could play instead.
"I think Bells [coach Craig Bellamy] hasn't really decided yet," Papenhuyzen said.
" ... But if it is Jacksy, he's got a good record with the Storm. I think he's got an 80 percent win record or something like that [from 25 games].
"If it is him he'll come in and do a job for sure and same with the other two."