Who inspired our current generation of first graders to reach for the heights that the NRL has to offer?
Josh Starling (Sea Eagles) – Matt King and Danny Buderus
"I probably had two. Just watching Origin as a kid Matty King and Danny Buderus were my two favourite players. Two country boys that weren't really touted to do much then came through and played at the highest level and won comps and won Origin. I got the chance to play with 'Kingy' at Souths then 'Bedsy' this year at the Nines and got a couple of photos with him. It was like meeting a childhood hero; I read his book. It would have been good to play against him but when I was at Souths he was injured the time we played Newcastle so I was a bit 'devo' but he was definitely someone I looked up to, someone who was tough and worked hard for everything he got."
Chad Townsend (Warriors) – Brad Fittler
"My idol when I was growing up was Brad Fittler. I wasn't a Roosters fan I just really liked Brad. The way he could step off both feet and the way he took the line on, that's why I liked him."
Aiden Tolman (Bulldogs) – Adrian Morley
"I was asked this question a few weeks ago and it was kind of hard because I can't really remember too much of growing up. Newcastle was the closest team and I liked the guys playing for them but I asked my old man and he said I leaned towards the Roosters in my early teens and Adrian Morley was the one he said I really looked up to. He was the one who definitely stood out for me. I don't play anything like him but he was always a good front-rower so he was one I definitely looked up to."
Adam Blair (Broncos) – Stephen Kearney
"Growing up in New Zealand I followed a lot of the All Blacks, guys like Zinzan Brooke, and then when I switched over to league it was guys like Ruben Wiki and Steve Kearney, they were the guys I looked up to as a kid coming through. Growing up and watching 'Mooks' play a bit and then to train alongside him when he was forwards coach at Melbourne, seeing how skilful he was as a back-rower was something that I thought I could build my game around."
Daniel Mortimer (Titans) – Stacey Jones
"I was obviously a Bulldogs fan growing up but he was just a little halfback and was such a special player. He directed the team so well and he would do a chip-and-chase and back himself. I remember watching one game when I was about eight and he had an absolute blinder, scored off a chip-and-chase, set up a few more tries and I just idolised him. I got the chance to play against him in my debut year with Parra in 2009 so that was pretty special, but I was too scared to talk to him after the game, I just shook his hand and kept my head down. He was definitely a favourite of mine."
Nathan Friend (Warriors) – Allan Langer
"I guess he was a small guy and he had a lot of skill. I grew up just outside of Brisbane and I was seven when they came into the competition. I still have a photo of me in the full Broncos kit with the No.7 on and I thought he was the man. I was lucky enough to train with him for a year at the Broncos; he was a cool dude as well."
Greg Eastwood (Bulldogs) – Ruben Wiki
"Ruben Wiki. Definitely watching him play for the black and white, and the fact we both started in the centres and ended up in the pack is something too. To play a game with him a couple of years back [in the 2007 All Golds v Northern Union game] was a dream come true for me and I still watch his Instagram posts – he's still ripped and fit – so being able to work with Ruben was fantastic."