The setting for Michael Jones' first encounter with Keven Mealamu is Sturges Park, Otahuhu.
It's the late '90s. Jones, playing for his Waitemata club, has heard about Mealamu, a young flanker from South Auckland in his early stages at the Otahuhu premiers, and is intrigued.
Mealamu is about 18, so that makes Jones - by then the owner of a World Cup winners' medal and recognised as one of the best loose forwards the world has seen - in his early 30s. He is an experienced, but fair, campaigner capable of teaching opposition players a few home truths with a tackling technique as much about timing as it is power.
So, here he is about to give this Mealamu kid a lesson and, fortunately, for Jones, the kickoff goes straight to the little guy.
"I knew this was the kid they were starting to give some wraps about," Jones says. "I wanted to put in a big hit to put my stamp of authority over him - to make a statement that he was playing the big boys.
"He ran straight at me. I thought he was going to run into me to try to barge me over, so I propped to launch forward, and then, lo and behold, he did this Carlos Spencer sidestep.
"I couldn't believe it, I thought I had timed it quite well. He clean beat me and I ended up launching at fresh air and my face was in the mud. As far as my Waitemata teammates were concerned my name was mud too that day.
"That's when I thought, 'Man, this kid is something else.' It was down to his skill and speed that he beat me. That was my first encounter, and I had the privilege of playing with him when he came into the Auckland scene."
As the now 36-year-old Mealamu prepares to play his final game for the Blues on Friday night, it is easy to believe he has been around almost forever. Tomorrow's match against the Highlanders at Eden Park will be his 175th in 16 years of professional rugby.
But it's important to remember that when he came into the Auckland team in 1999 he had been a hooker for only one year and that the Sean Fitzpatrick legacy was as strong as ever, despite the former All Blacks skipper having been gone one full season.
"He had some big shoes to fill," Jones, now 50, says. "We were all Sean Fitzpatrick fans, obviously, because he was our captain, but he had moved out of the Auckland scene and Keven was all of a sudden the incumbent. But he made the transition into the hooker role so superbly and made it his own.
Mealamu made his Blues debut in 2000 but wasn't signed in 2002 by coach Peter Sloane, so he played for the Chiefs, and, fuelled by a desire to prove people wrong, played so well he made the All Blacks that year.
"Pound for pound he must be the most powerful player we've ever had," says Jones, who retired from professional rugby after Mealamu's first season at Auckland in 1999. "He's not small but as a hooker he's just a pocket dynamo."
Jones described Mealamu as a cross between a midfielder and a flanker who turned himself into a hooker, and it is that willingness to not only change and learn but to put his body into potentially dangerous situations which impressed prop Craig Dowd.
"That takes courage - especially at hooker when your arms are pinned so if the scrum collapses you're going to do a face-plant," Dowd says.
"He had a fantastic attitude - in the mould of Michael Jones. He was very humble, willing to learn and very coachable.
"He had a never-say-die attitude and with the ball in hand he was just devastating."
Jones also paid tribute to Mealamu's leadership qualities - not only in rugby at all levels, but also in the community. Mealamu still retains links with his secondary school Aorere College and is regarded as a force for good in South Auckland.
"I bumped into him last Saturday - his son [Samuel] was playing for St Kents' and I was coaching my son [Niko] at St Peters' under-15s, so we had a hug and a good catch-up," Jones says. "I hadn't seen him for a while and we had the joy of watching our boys play.
"We're hugely proud of Keven in the Samoan and Pacific Island community. He epitomises the values that we hold dear - loyalty, faithfulness, respect, compassion, leadership. He's a quiet leader but he has mana because he walks the talk.
"In our community you're not really seen as a leader until you've served your community, served your family, served the organisations you represent, whether that's Auckland, the Blues, or the All Blacks. And he's just done it with such aplomb and class.
"He has been a role model for a generation of New Zealanders, but particularly Polynesians in South Auckland, West Auckland, Porirua, Linwood, wherever."
Mealamu, the little sidestepping Otahuhu loose forward who refused to give in and became a new breed of hooker, has left a lasting impression.