Sam Perrett and younger brother Lloyd have waited a long time to line up together for the Bulldogs. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos.
It all started on the mattresses of their Gold Coast family lounge room, and when Lloyd Perrett Junior joined his older brother Sam on the hallowed turf of ANZ Stadium last weekend, a century of rugby league history may just have been turned on its ear.
Nine and half years separates Lloyd (19) and Sam (29), and when the elder Perrett's surprise return from a knee injury in the Bulldogs 20-12 loss to the Cowboys put the pair on the field for the first time at first-grade level, we went scurrying away to the only man who could confirm whether there had been a bigger age gap between a pair of siblings in the greatest game of all.
Rugby league oracle David Middleton believes that not since 1914, when legendary front-rower Frank Burge, then 20, pulled on the Dirty Reds jumper for Glebe alongside brother Peter, 10 and a half years his senior, have family ties on a footy field been stretched so far by father time.
With Lloyd having suited up for his first run in the NRL big time in Round 15 against the Raiders, just five days after Sam sustained ligament damage in the Dogs' mid-season loss to the Eels, the younger Perrett needed no reminder of how special their achievement is, or how far the pair have come from the days of "knee footy" – when four of five mattresses would be thrown down on the floor of parents Isla and Lloyd senior's lounge room, and nine Perrett siblings would go hammer and tongs for hours on end.
"A few of the boys spoke about it in the lead up, growing up it was probably a million to one chance of happening – playing NRL with a brother who's nine years older than you – but it's amazing that we did it and it's a very proud moment for the family," Lloyd told NRL.com.
"It definitely didn't go the way we wanted but it's something I'll remember always – playing my first game with Sam."
Five games into an NRL career matched in potential only by the sheer size of the 113kg, six foot four Burleigh Bears junior, Lloyd has plenty of games ahead alongside Sam, though should he make it to the game's highest level he'll remarkably line up opposite the man he arrived at the Bulldogs with in 2012 as part of a mid-season package deal from the Roosters.
Sam may have played 21 Tests for the Kiwis since debuting in 2007, but Lloyd – who arrived on the Gold Coast at age four when his family upped stumps and made the move across the Tasman – has thrown his lot in with the Aussies, twice representing the Maroons at junior level and touring with the junior Kangaroos last year.
"I've lived in Australia my whole life," Lloyd said of his allegiance to the green and gold, a bit of a head scratcher given Sam's commitment to the black and white.
"My dad, my mentors, everyone around me told me I had to think very hard about it, and in the end I would've been happy to represent any country.
"But I felt honoured to be picked to play for the junior Kangaroos and to play in the Queensland Origin twice in the under-20s and having looked back or thought about it since."
So the 19-year-old's not looking back, and flat-out refusing to look past the here and now as he goes about his debut season with the blue and whites. Last we heard the Bulldogs are yet to lock up one of the most promising young forwards in the game beyond 2014, but when asked on his future plans, Perrett tells us he couldn't give us an answer even if he wanted to, preferring to leave all contract negotiations in the hands of Lloyd senior.
"My old fella, he looks after all of it for me and he tends to keeps it a secret," he said.
"It's probably the best for me because I know previously I didn't do too well when I was thinking 'I could be off to this club, I could be off to that club' when I was a young fella trying to get an NRL contract, so I think it's for the best that he keeps it from me.
"At the forefront of my mind is just playing well. I know that if I play well, then those things will come off the back of that, and I'm happy I'm playing first grade so that's what I'm concentrating on at the moment."