This time last year, Roosters hooker Sam Verrills was watching a surfing competition on a beach in Portugal and relying on an iPad to witness his club's stunning Telstra Premiership win.
By his own admission, the then-19-year-old probably wouldn't have considered back then he'd be any chance of playing a key role in the 2019 decider, but a whirlwind season filling in for injured captain Jake Friend has him primed to play a grand final in just his 14th NRL appearance.
"I was with the 20s last year and we got knocked out," Verrills recalled.
"I was always going to Europe, went there for six weeks. I knew I was training with first grade so the excitement was 'oh I'm about to train with first grade and they're in a grand final'.
"Fast forward a year and I could be playing one so it's pretty crazy."
In true Aussie backpacker fashion, Verrills squeezed a lot of Europe into those six weeks but it was at a Portuguese beach just north of Lisbon where spent the last Sunday in September.
"I was in Portugal with my girlfriend watching it on my little iPad in my room," he said.
"I was cheering the boys in from Portugal. If you'd said, fast track a year and I'll be potentially playing in a grand final I couldn't have [believed it]."
Match Highlights: Roosters v Storm
Verrills was there to watch the Ericeira QS 10,000, a surfing competition.
"I was hanging by the beach, relaxing on my holiday and watching on my iPad. I was actually kind of jealous I wasn't here to watch it and support the boys," he said.
Verrills hasn't quite had a chance to process how fast his rise has been.
"It's gone really quick. Sitting with my girlfriend and best friends in Europe, you get an email about when pre-season starts and you get a little buzz because you're training with first grade and that's what I got last year," he said.
"Ever since I came in the boys, the coaching staff have all been amazing and now we're in a GF."
Verrills will again have to approach this week the way he has the past two finals matches – unsure if skipper Jake Friend will return to bump him out of the 17.
"I'll support him if he's playing. I look up to him as a person and a player. If he's back next week I'll be very happy for him," Verrills said.
"He's either playing or he's not. It's not really a big focus. I'm there to train, I'm there to do whatever Robbo (coach Trent Robinson) and the coaching staff and the players want me to do. If that's play, it's play, if it's to support it's to support the team."
It was only in the final stages if the tense 14-6 win over the Storm the reality started to sink in for the young rake.
"I was cheering a bit at the end. It's a crazy feeling," he said.
"I've been dreaming about this since four or five years of age watching all the big moments in grand finals. If I get the opportunity to run out next week at ANZ on Sunday against the Raiders it will be a pretty special feeling not just for me but my family as well."