'Broncos have got a beauty'
If it wasn't for an intercept try by a 42-year-old by the name of Brad Fittler, Mitchell Garbutt's individual effort against St George Illawarra would have been the most memorable moment of the inaugural Auckland Nines in February.
Taking the ball 10 metres his own side of halfway after the half-time siren had sounded and wearing the unfamiliar No.7 jersey, Garbutt pushed off Dragons defender Nathan Green twice and then, waving the ball around in his right hand, he held off Josh Dugan in cover defence to score a 60-metre try in the corner.
For a 25-year-old front-rower who had made his NRL debut the year prior, it was the type of skilful showcase that had him marked as a player to watch in 2014 and almost certainly a regular starter for the Melbourne Storm.
At least, that's what Easts Tigers captain Steven Thorpe thought.
"I didn't expect to see Mitch whatsoever this year but when he comes back to us Mitch comes with a great attitude. He loves being at the Easts Tigers, he loves playing for us and when we get him it's a bonus," Thorpe said ahead of Sunday's Intrust Super Cup Grand Final against the Northern Pride.
"He'll have 22 carries a game, ridiculous amount of tackles, he's just a machine and he's really looking forward to this weekend, it means a lot to him. He's been at the club for three years now so he wants to finish on a high note.
"The other weekend [against Wynnum] he was injured so he didn't play but he still came up and watched us so he's a real asset to the team and the boys love having him around.
"He's going to love it up here [with the Broncos]. Hopefully he'll get more of an opportunity and a bit more game-time and from what I've seen of him with my team, he has the professionalism of an NRL player so with the maturity he's got he'll be good for the Broncos next year."
Having made just six top grade appearances for the Storm this season, Garbutt has been able to turn out for the Tigers on 11 occasions but Easts coach Craig Ingebrigtsen expects his NRL involvement to increase significantly under Wayne Bennett at the Broncos over the next three seasons.
"I thought he was NRL [quality] all season to be honest with you, I think the Broncos have got one there that's going to be outstanding for them," Ingebrigtsen said.
"Mitch is enormous for us and we're so grateful to have him in the side this week. We could have rolled the dice with him last week but we didn't, we erred on the side of caution and got a result out of that so he'll be fresh and ready to go and he's valuable to the group.
"Everyone that comes up from Melbourne buys in, they all understand the process and we obviously speak to them during the week and send them clips as the coaching staff but they're great. Their club culture and what they have done at that club, it's filtered down to their second-tier players as well."
As well as Garbutt's desire to finish the season on the best possible note, front row partner Thorpe is also hoping to farewell the club with Easts' first premiership in the expanded state-wide competition.
With 105 games to his credit, Thorpe is the most capped Tiger in the squad for Sunday and is one of only five players in the Grand Final to have not missed a game in 2014.
A decision on whether he starts or comes off the bench won't be made until game day but with a one-year contract to play with Sheffield in England's second division Kingstone Press Championship next season.
"I'm pretty excited. I got an opportunity with Sheffield, they sent me an offer in and I'm still only young so I thought, Why not," said the 24-year-old.
"It will be good to get out of my comfort zone a bit and try my luck in the UK, they're a good club so I might learn a bit and I'll see how it goes for the year. It's only a one-year contract at the moment so if I enjoy it I'll stay and if not I'll come back to the Easts Tigers.
"There have been some nibbles from some NRL clubs last year and the year before, I did a pre-season with the Melbourne Storm but nothing really came of it so Sheffield have given me an opportunity and I think it's the right one to take at this point in my career so I'm going to run with that and hopefully something good comes out of it."