MATT Gillett's former coach Aldo Loi always knew the Brisbane back-rower had talent, but a 13-try haul on a cold night in Gympie put his belief beyond doubt.
Gillett was playing for the Bribie Island Warrigals under-20s side back then.
He was a ball-playing centre with the ability to create and then finish off some of the greatest play Loi has seen from a junior footballer.
"I remember one game we played up at Gympie and he scored nine tries in the Under-20s and then came on in A Grade and scored another four tries," Loi said.
"He always had the ability and we knew that just because of some of the freakish things he used to do back then when he was a kid that he would go a long way.
"It was just the dedication of the kid.
"Then he started playing the Under 20s for the Broncos and he hasn't looked back."
Gillett will take to the field today in the NRL Grand Final between the Broncos and the Cowboys.
He will run out alongside his former Bribie Island juniors team mate Jack Reed as Brisbane attempts to secure its first premiership since 2006.
Both players will be pertinent to their team's success in their respective positions in the second-row and centre.
And the fundamental skills that were ingrained into their psyches all those years ago running around for Bribie Island will be taken into today's all-Queensland decider.
"Matt played in the centres back then and always had excellent ball skills with flick passes and long passes," Loi said.
"He was always setting up tries and scoring them himself, which he doesn't seem to do too much now, probably because Wayne (Bennett) has a different job for him."
Loi said Gillett was often back at the Bribie club helping the juniors to give back to a game that has given him so much.
"I text him after every (Broncos) game and he texts me back within 10 minutes every time, probably still in his gear," Loi said.
"I texted him an hour before the third State of Origin game this year and thought he would text me back after the game but he texted me straight back.
"He must have been in the sheds putting his gear on."
And for as much success as Gillett has had with Australian and Queensland representative honours, Loi said Reed was also an extremely good player.
"Jack was an apprentice renderer when I was a builder and he worked on quite a few of my jobs," Loi said.
"I was doing some work on the Bribie club house and I remember him being out on the field there one week day kicking the footy and he was only in his early teens.
"He went to Souths in Brisbane and they always rated him very highly and he has gone on to do very well.
"The club is extremely proud of both of them."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.