NRL debut 26 years in the making
Tom Kingston will line up for the second NRL game of his life on Sunday but there have been plenty of times whether he doubted he'd ever get one.
At 26 years and 65 days old, Kingston made his debut for the Titans in Monday night's win over South Sydney and set to keep his spot on the bench for Sunday's all-important clash with the Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium.
The suspensions of co-captain Greg Bird and Cody Nelson helped coach John Cartwright trim his back-row options with Mark Ioane and Matt Srama the ones likely to miss out, Kingston enhancing his prospects with a strong first showing against the formidable Rabbitohs pack.
Originally named in the Queensland Residents team to play the curtain-raiser prior to Origin III on Wednesday night, Kingston travelled as part of an 18-man Titans squad unsure whether he'd finally achieve his NRL dream or miss out on two wonderful opportunities altogether but he made the most of his 51 minutes with 58 running metres and 27 tackles.
Kingston's eventual arrival in the NRL is a far cry from the path trod by so many players and is an example of how a player can develop playing in second-tier senior competition.
A member of the Titans under-20s team in 2008 that included Kevin Gordon, Will Matthews and Jordan Rankin, Kingston watched all his former teammates while he returned to his junior club at Tweed Heads to try to forge his way through the Intrust Super Cup.
But the phone refused to ring, until his manager explored an opportunity overseas and secured Kingston a full-time contract in France playing for Salanque Méditerranée Pia XIII, aka the Pia Donkeys.
"Pia Donkeys, good club name, kind of Rabbitohs colours, that was an awesome experience," Kingston said.
"My manager just mentioned whether I'd be interested in it and with a few weeks off here and there there was the chance to do some travelling as well and I was ready for a change.
"I'd always lived on the [Gold] Coast and that was my first time out of home, it was a big change, no one spoke my language but it was an eye opener and got me off my feet."
Fast forward two years and Kingston was preparing for another season in the Intrust Super Cup with Tweed but looking further afield to where his future lay.
He prepared for season 2013 as though it would be his last, a career in the Air Force as an air-field defence guard at Amberley near Ipswich representing the end of his dream to be a professional rugby league player.
"I played the whole year basically like it was going to be my last year," Kingston explained. "I thought this might be my last hurrah so I gave it everything I had last year.
"I thought I was off to the Air Force. I already had my acceptance date and it was three days after pre-season started and I had no idea this was coming about.
"I wasn't always the fanciest player on the field or anything but I always tried my heart out out there and sure enough, it rolls around and this happens."
The 'this' Kingston refers to was the offer of a one-year contract with the Titans after he was named Tweed's player of the year and a place as a back-row back-up through the arduous Origin period.
He came close to a debut earlier in the year when he warmed up as 18th man as cover for Albert Kelly but he was not needed on that occasion and was then unavailable through injury as Gold Coast lost Greg Bird, Nate Myles and Ashley Harrison around Origin I.
He is currently endeavouring to renegotiate a contract to stay a Titan in 2015 but more than most Kingston knows that life has a funny way of taking you in all sorts of wonderful directions.
"I've just got the one year contract at the moment but my manager's talking to them at the moment so we'll just see what happens," Kingston told NRL.com.
"I've worked so hard for five years and I was close to throwing it all in and then funnily enough it rolled over and got this start. I've got to take it with two hands and make the most of it otherwise it will be a waste."