Storm centre Brenko Lee once took rugby league for granted and it nearly cost him any chance of achieving some of the game's highest honours.
Minutes after finding out he was adding a place in the Queensland Origin squad to his premiership ring on Sunday night, an emotional Lee told NRL.com about his journey from having no contract a year ago to winning a grand final.
"I can't really describe it man. I'm very emotional," Lee said.
"I didn't even have a contract last year. It's a special feeling. I've worked my arse off. I'm just really grateful to be here and to be able to call myself a premiership player.
"We've had the longest year, being away from Melbourne and living out of a suitcase but we got there in the end."
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Lee spoke to NRL.com recently about the pain of losing his nan and then his aunty this year, plus the struggles of his short and ill-fated attempted switch to rugby and struggles with weight and fitness when it looked like his NRL career could be on the scrapheap.
So what would the Brenko Lee of 12 months ago have said if you told him he was a year away from a grand final win and an Origin berth?
"I'd think they were telling me a story because that's a fairy-tale," Lee said.
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"I can't believe it. I had no contract. I was at a crossroads, now I have a ring and I'm about to roll into Origin camp.
"Whatever happens, happens. The rest is history. I'm grateful to be called into Origin camp because Queensland means the world to me.
"I just want to celebrate this right now and soak it all in then go into camp fresh. Whoever Wayne [Bennett] picks for game one, I know they're going to do the job. Fingers crossed I'm in that game one team but I'm just so blessed to be part of this [Melbourne] organisation."
Asked if he could now afford to feel proud of what he'd achieved, Lee nodded.
"I debuted at 18 years old [for Canberra] and I took rugby league for granted," he said.
"Being so young, I thought it was going to be easy. I learned the hard way and learned some good routines and good habits. Habits that I can now use until the end of my career.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 1 -
Venue: Adelaide Oval, Adelaide
"I've got a long way to go, I've still got a lot to learn and still picking up habits but I've got to retain what I do now.
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"Things like sleeping at the same time every night. I try to go to bed by 10'o'clock, I try to eat the same every morning, I do the same stretches every day. If I play good, whatever I do leading up to that game I just stick to it as a routine.
"I sit on the same seat on the bus all the time, it's just a routine I've got. The Storm is all about routine and preparation and doing your best."
The more Lee reveals about the challenges of the past 12 months, the more the emotions begin to overflow.
"It's so much relief. So much relief," Lee said through tears.
"We had it all against us, no-one believed in us, Penrith won 17 straight, [people thought] we couldn't beat them but at the end of the day our inner sanctum believed that we could.
"There was so much pressure going into the game. But it was good pressure because we believed we were peaking.
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"We got into half time and we still knew they were going to come out firing because they're a wonderful footy side. You can't win 17 in a row as a fluke. They know how to play footy.
"Nine minutes to go, I'll be honest with you, when they sent off Jahrome Hughes, I thought 'what have we done, why has God got to do this to us!'
"We were up 20-nil and they're going to take it away from us? But we dug deep, we believed in ourselves like we've always done."