Jahrome Hughes has taken the circuitous route to sporting glory.
The Kiwis halfback is regarded as one of the best playmakers in the NRL, a central figure in the Melbourne Storm's quest for back-to-back premierships, which will continue with Saturday's preliminary final against the Panthers.
But his status has been hard won, as Hughes is the quintessential late bloomer.
Unlike Stacey Jones, Shaun Johnson or Kieran Foran, there was no instant breakthrough, no conveyor belt from junior football to first grade.
A product of the Harbour City Eagles in Wellington, Hughes made his NRL debut in July 2013 for the Gold Coast Titans.
But instead of that being the start of something, his ambitions were put on ice, making just one more top-level appearance over the next four seasons.
A move to the Storm followed in 2017, and there were glimpses of his potential, though he managed only 15 games in his first two seasons in Victoria.
The breakthrough came in 2019, when he played 24 matches, though there was another twist late in the season.
After playing almost all of his career at fullback, Hughes was moved into the halves in round 23, to accommodate the talents of Ryan Papenhuyzen.
It was a big step and not exactly seamless. Melbourne had finished top of the NRL ladder but playoff losses to the Raiders (qualifying final) and Roosters (preliminary final) saw their campaign end prematurely, with their raw Kiwi playmaker copping plenty of criticism.
"When Craig put me into that position late in the 2019 season, we probably didn't play our best footy then," Hughes told the Herald.
"Bowing out in the preliminary final, there was a lot of outside noise about if Craig had made the right decision, if I was going to be an NRL halfback.
"It did get me down a bit, but it gave me that motivation as well because everyone inside the club wanted me to be there and they trusted me."
But it didn't dampen the speculation.
"I remember there was an article that came out about [Cameron Smith] playing seven early in the 2020 season.
"Craig rang me straight away and told me he wanted me to be the halfback that year and that gave me even more motivation to work on what I needed to in the preseason.
"That preseason was the first one I had training at halfback, the rest of my preseasons I was training to be a fullback.
"That helped out a lot, to get that confidence in myself and knowing the club had confidence in me."
It wasn't an easy transition but Hughes was encouraged to play his natural game.
"They just said, 'you need to play to your strengths as well, you don't need to be a Cooper Cronk or turn into the perfect halfback. You still need to work on a few things, but don't go away from what your strengths are, which is running the ball.'
"Once I heard that, I backed myself with that stuff and added a few things, I think that's what has brought the good form."
Storm assistant coach Stephen Kearney heard about Hughes as far back as 2016, when he was still Kiwis mentor.
"Kristian Woolf, who had him at the Townsville Blackhawks, told me how talented he was," says Kearney. "That has always been there, it is just a matter of being able to get some his consistency with his body and his training and being at a club that could help him coordinate it all.
"He has had back surgery, a fair few issues with injuries but over the last 24 months, he has been able to get some consistency with his performance and his training."
Hughes is making up for lost time – he turns 27 in early October – but is one game away from successive grand finals.
Better late than never.