Little wonder Ed Kosi looked overwhelmed with emotion after the Warriors held off the Cowboys in their latest NRL match in Gosford.
The 22-year-old wing was a $19-an-hour night shift worker in a courier warehouse less than a year ago.
Kosi only found out he would make his NRL debut a couple of hours before Sunday's game, after David Fusitu'a succumbed to a hamstring issue again.
Kosi was targeted by the Cowboys and was caught out for speed on one occasion. But all in all it was an excellent debut, and he came off his wing to make one big tackle to force a turnover, with teammates rushing to congratulate him.
The south Aucklander's league career had stalled in 2020, as he ballooned to 110kg.
"Last year I was working with my younger brothers on night shifts … just packing boxes and mail all night," Kosi told NRL.com after the 24–20 win over North Queensland.
"I'd work 9pm to 6 in the morning, it was a pretty full-on work schedule.
"I'd have my local games on a Saturday so I'd take Friday night off to try and get my body clock right. I was on $19 an hour and grateful for that."
The tall Kosi played for Mangere East in the Auckland Fox Memorial competition, and said he "looked like a prop" after putting on weight.
New Warriors coach Nathan Brown got hold of Kosi on the first day of pre-season training, saying he had to lose weight to become a first grader.
"It's crazy to think where I was at last year, wondering if I'd ever play first grade," said Kosi, who is down to 103kg.
Kosi, who is on a development contract, needed an NRL exemption to play. He managed to call his parents while he was on the bus to Sunday's game.
"They'd just finished church and mum was just crying when I told her," he said.
"I was just trying to bury those nerves. Once I ran out there I thought my legs were going to give way. I was just telling myself 'it's a normal game, get that first touch'."
Kosi was paired on the right edge with fellow rookie Rocco Berry, a schoolboy rugby star playing just his seventh league match.
The 19-year-old Berry - whose father Marty was a one-test All Black and a 1996 Hurricanes player - is rated a major prospect.
Coach Brown said the two young backs "had their moments".
"They probably came up best in the last 15 minutes when the game was right on the line," he said.
"Credit to them, they got it right."