Bulldogs hope to unearth new DCE
Three years ago, a couple of effervescent young kids from the Sunshine Coast arrived at Brookvale Oval hoping to realise their childhood dreams.
To some, the pair were as unrealistic as they were childish, given neither of them had rarely made a representative team during their teenage years.
One was then a 22-year-old halfback deemed not big enough for 15 of the League's 16 clubs; he is now a premiership-winner, two-time grand-finalist, and bona fide Queensland and Kangaroos superstar.
But the other, Canterbuy-Bankstown's unknown fullback Patrick Templeman, was sent back and told to live in a kitchen.
"He came down and trialled in our under-18s and he scored two or three tries but he was a little bit light so we told him to go home and put some weight on," recalls Canterbury-Bankstown recruitment manager Noel Cleal.
Cleal is a vital component of Des Hasler's super team that helped engineer Manly's decade-long dynasty and whose legacy, thanks to his belief in 'roughies' like Daly Cherry-Evans, still resonates around the league today.
"You felt he (Templeman) had some ability, but Manly didn't have a great deal of money in those days so we basically sent him back to Queensland to keep an eye on him," he says. "Then I left at the end of that season and that's when I grabbed him (at the Bulldogs) the next season."
Initially, the recruitment guru is reluctant to draw similarities between the player who has almost single-handedly changed Manly's future and the one who didn't even pull on a jersey for them.
"As far as Patty's concerned, with Cherry-Evans, the similarities are that they're Queenslanders and they're roughies. That's about it," he says.
But soon enough, as if he couldn't help himself, Cleal found himself describing Templeman in the same vein as arguably Manly's most significant asset.
"He's a pretty level-headed kid," he says. "He's not getting too far ahead of himself and Des insists that. If you get too far ahead of yourself... well, you're barking up your own arse. He's training with the big boys now and he's holding his own."
Templeman's Queensland Cup coach Dave Cordwell doesn't disagree.
"His strongest ability as a kid was to be able to read a game, but now that his athleticism and strength has come on board, you put them all together and he's a pretty lethal player," he says.
But rather than likening him to Cherry-Evans, and instead of inevitably comparing him to departed star Ben Barba, Cordwell says his former protégé might remind Bulldogs fans of another popular fullback.
"When you watch him play, he's very much like Luke Patten. He's always been endowed with good pace, and he's got good values, but he's always had that talent to read a game well from an early age."
As the seconds tick down towards the start of the 2014 season, discussion continues to rage on whether the Bulldogs will recruit a high-profile fullback to fill Barba's shoes.
But in Templeman - who ironically hails from the same city Barba transferred to - they might just have a roughie who could deliver a rookie season no-one will have expected, just like the other kid who rocked up at Brookvale.
For now, a first grade opportunity beckons. And it'd be a dream come true.
"It's every athlete's dream to play in the NRL, but I've just been training in the pre-season, trying to improve my game," says the kid himself.
"I'm trying to learn as much as I can, let my body develop a bit - I'm still pretty lean and growing into my body. It's all about getting that first crack."