Smith pupil Kostjasyn ready to bring down Storm
His origins lie in places just as famous for rugby league as they are for hot summer days and beach tans.
If the name is anything to go by Cowboys hooker Rory Kostjasyn is Russian; if it's the jersey he's Irish; but if you bump into him on the street he's about as fair dinkum Aussie as you will find.
Up until his primary school days Kostjasyn, of Russian and Irish descent, was exposed to the rich tapestries in the proverbial melting pot of Sydney's Western suburbs, but it wasn't until his family had relocated to the Central Coast of New South Wales that he would find his calling – rugby league.
"I didn't start playing rugby league until I was 11 but I think that was mainly because of my old man, both his parents are Russian. He played a bit of soccer when he was a kid so I went into soccer but when I was about 10 I said that I wanted to play footy," Kostjasyn told NRL.com.
"I was just a kid when I played soccer, only 10 years old. I did like playing soccer but I was no Manchester United 10-year old prodigy I can tell you that. I enjoyed soccer but I just enjoyed footy more."
Much like any professional athlete, Kostjasyn's early days consisted of anything and everything outdoors. He would make use of the high swells in summer, while heading in-land when winter came to play rugby league and union.
Footy would become the main focus in his teen years, representing the local Berkeley Vale Panthers then onto Jersey Flegg Reserve Grade with the Sydney Roosters.
"I came up with guys like Mitch Pearce, Mitch Aubusson, Frank-Paul Nu'uausala, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, guys like that," Kostjasyn recalled.
From there he would gain the attention of Melbourne Storm recruiters where he would play alongside idol Cameron Smith.
"I have a lot of respect and I look up to Cameron Smith quite a lot, he's probably the best No. 9 to ever have played the game. Hopefully I've learned a little bit from him," Kostjasyn quipped of his time under Smith.
"He's pretty smart, that would be the number one thing. He rarely makes poor decisions, he's very calm and makes good decisions 99 per cent of the time."
Unfortunately the master vs apprentice duel will have to take a raincheck this week with Smith out for two rounds with an ankle injury.
Not that it really matters to Kostjasyn, who brushed off the prospect of facing the man who taught him much of what he knows, instead adopting the 'team-only' mentality that was drilled into players by coach Paul Green this year.
"It is never about the individual. Greeny has been telling us that from day one. The moment you start playing away from structures is the moment things start to fall apart," Kostjasyn said.
Looking forward, Kostjasyn admits he needs to do a lot more to solidify a Cowboys No. 9 jersey that hasn't found a sustainable home since club legend Aaron Payne retired in 2012, and has put heavy responsibility on himself to lead from the front, especially in the coming weeks .
"I wouldn't say I have cemented my spot, there are a lot of good players going around in this team. I don't try to think too far ahead, I just plan on doing my job this week and if I do that, then the future looks after itself.
"I think we don't need guys like Johnno, Tatey and Jimmy to defend the way we want to defend, we can't be reliant on only them," he said, reflecting on last week's loss to Canberra.
"Defence is an attitude thing not an individual thing and it's something I really want to step up and help our guys with."