They were front-row partners for the Australian Schoolboys in 2006 and roomed together for the Junior Kangaroos a year later, but on Friday night Tim Mannah and Aiden Tolman will put their friendship on hold as they collide at ANZ Stadium.
Both enforcers are a real chance of NSW selection, but neither is thinking that far ahead. For Tolman and Mannah, it is all about here and now, tackling and charging at whoever is in front of them.
And this Friday, it just happens to be each other.
“They always say you make friendships that will last a lifetime, and I definitely did that on tour. We are still really good mates,” Mannah told NRL.com.
“Out of all the boys to come out of that age group, I’ve always said that Aiden was one of my favourites to play with, he is just a real work-horse and he is showing that now in the NRL.
“I really get along well with Aiden, every time we hang out, it is like no time has passed.”
The two mates led from the front for the Australian Schoolboys, clinching a 7-0 clean sweep on their tour through the UK five years ago, with the props earning consecutive man-of-the-match honours for good measure. Mannah earned the award in the third tour match against Great Britain Community Lions, while Tolman was best-on-ground a game later against England Academy.
That tour of England, France and Wales is one of Mannah’s favourite memories and he says he knew from the start that Tolman was going to be successful in the NRL.
“Aiden was always going to make it in footy, he just has a tremendous work ethic,” he said.
“He always puts his hand up to do the dirty work, and as his front-row partner it was great to play alongside him.
“He was always busy on the field, especially with the runs that no-one else wanted to make, those hard yards, he was always first to do them.”
Fast forward five years and the two young props are now established first graders.
Once teammates, they now stand opposed in one of rugby league’s fiercest rivalries, both desperate to leave their mark and help their respective teams bounce back after disappointing losses.
But their confrontation on Friday night could serve a much more intriguing purpose.
The representative season is just around the corner and these two young bulls are right in the thick of the action.
Mannah has already had a taste of Origin football and is desperate to get another crack, while he admits Tolman is the prototypical Origin player.
“Nothing has changed in the years that have passed, you know when you come up against Aiden that he will just keep coming at you and he is consistent week in, week out,” he said.
“I couldn’t be happier for him if he got a crack at Origin, he is the kind of player you want in your corner and you love having in the team.
“If the chance ever arose for us to play together in Origin, that would be really special.”
There is no denying Mannah’s passion for the Blues and for State of Origin. The desire and enthusiasm of his words are contagious.
But make no mistake; the local kid from the Guilford Owls is well grounded.
He desperately wants to play Origin again, but, for a young forward still growing into his role, first he just wants to make an impact for his club.
“Playing State of Origin did a lot for me, I’ll never forget the experience,” he said.
“Going into camp was all a bit surreal, to be around players that I had looked up to since I was a kid like Trent Barrett and Paul Gallen, and seeing the way they handle themselves, and the way they train, you learn so much.
“Playing Origin just makes you that much more hungry, I’ve got a taste of it now, I’ve never been more hungry. It is something you really want to be a part of. Big time.
“But that is all really out of my control, I don’t think about it, my role and number one focus is with Parramatta and we have a big job to do on Friday night.”
Reminder: Tickets to Telstra Premiership matches at ANZ Stadium during Round 6 and 7 of the Telstra Premiership will include travel on public transport to and from ANZ Stadium, including major event rail and bus services available during the Royal Easter Show period.