As the players tried on their new Kiwis playing strip for the first time on Tuesday morning, Te Maire Martin's smile was wider than most.
Martin was back in the national set up, three years after a brain bleed had effectively ended his career, eventually forcing him into early retirement.
After months of seeing specialists, surgeons and doctors – who couldn't offer precise answers about the expected rate of recovery – Martin gave the sport away in January 2020.
He returned last year, playing club footy with his brothers and cousins in the Waikato, but never imagined being involved in the professional side of the sport again.
But the 26-year-old is back and in contention to face Mate Ma'a Tonga on Saturday (5.20pm) at Mt Smart Stadium after a whirlwind chain of events.
"Six months ago the NRL wasn't even on my radar," Martin told the Herald. "It's pretty surreal, playing seven games back [in the NRL] and being able to be around these boys in the Kiwis squad. It's more of a reflection on the Brisbane team, they have been going good, which is always good for your confidence and experience."
Martin joined the Broncos midway through pre-season and expected to play Queensland Cup in 2022, with maybe a late season shot at first grade.
But an injury to fullback Tesa Niu opened the door and Martin has taken his chance, helping them to seven wins from eight games since his introduction.
It's been one of the more unlikely comebacks in NRL history, after the awful events of 2019.
Martin was a promising talent, with four test caps and an NRL grand final behind him, when the debilitating migraines and headaches began early that season.
He didn't play after round seven – a 24-12 loss to the Bulldogs – and soon wasn't able to be involved in training, before eventually cutting the cord altogether.
"It wasn't a decision that was made overnight," said Martin. "There were a lot of scans, specialist appointments and it came to a point where I thought it was the best thing I could do for myself and the club because the specialist couldn't put their finger on what caused it or how long it was going to take to heal."
At 23, Martin faced the end of his career.
"That was a tough time but I suppose when one door closes another one opens," said Martin.
Martin headed home to Tahoroa, a small village in the King Country and made up for lost time, after being on a relentless sporting trajectory since he was a teenager.
Aside from quality family time, there was surfing, fishing and plenty of pig hunting, as he trained his dogs to hunt in the wild.
"I got my dogs going, got some good pigs," laughed Martin.
He did his best to forget about league, not watching a single match in 2020, aside from the grand final.
"That kept my mind away from thinking about footy and missing it," said Martin.
Last year he made some tentative steps back into sport, playing club rugby for Otorohanga and league with Taharoa Steelers in the Waikato competition, alongside several members of his family.
He made slow but steady progress, before a starring role for Waikato Mana against the Wellington Orcas last October in the national competition, claiming a brace of tries and two assists.
"That game ended up being on TV and we won by quite a bit," recalled Martin. "My manager rang up and said 'are you keen to get back into it'? At the time I thought, my head feels sweet and everything feels good. I'll try to give it a crack."
After being cleared by an independent doctor in New Zealand, Martin was offered a development contract by the Broncos, playing with Wynnum-Manly Seagulls before his first grade call-up last month, his first NRL match in more than 1092 days.
Martin, who made his Kiwis debut in the 2016 Four Nations tournament, last pulled on the Black and White V in June 2018 in Denver.
"I didn't think that was going to be my last one," said Martin. "Then I got that injury."
Martin has always been a special talent, with an enviable range of skills. But the events of the last few years have demonstrated his courage and resilience, which may prove his biggest asset yet.
Jesse Bromwich was named Kiwis captain on Tuesday, the logical choice as the most experienced member of the squad (29 tests). Hooker Krystal Rota was confirmed as the Kiwi Ferns skipper for their match against Tonga on Saturday (3.10pm).