McInnes's rise a dream come true
As the game prepares to celebrate Play NRL Round this weekend, past and present players have been reminiscing about some of their favourite memories from their junior footy days, and how those moments helped shape their careers in the game.
For Rabbitohs hooker Cameron McInnes, it goes back to the start of his journey of a local South Sydney product to an NRL player at the club he idolised growing up.
Like many youngsters, McInnes started playing rugby league from a very early age; his inspiration: friendship.
"I would have been five years old. Where I went to day-care was across the road from the park. I had a good mate who lived next door, and he was going over, so I went over with him and loved it," McInnes said.
"My parents took me back the next week and I started playing. That was for the Botany Rams. It took off from there and I worked my way up."
McInnes is now in his third NRL season with the Bunnies, but revealed he almost quit rugby league just minutes into his junior career.
"My first game actually, I got tackled and I ran off the field. I didn't like it all," he told NRL.com.
"But after that I just loved it. I loved running the ball and tackling and being with my friends. That was just sort of having fun and running around with you mates. As I got older, I started to take it more seriously."
The South Sydney No.9 has fond memories of his junior footy days; none greater than his sole premiership with the Botany Rams.
"We only won one grand final when I was eight years old," he said.
"I remember it was at the Old Redfern Oval before it got knocked down and rebuilt. Thinking back to that, it was pretty special playing there.
"When I think back to junior footy, that's the memory that sticks out.
"I played nine years with the Rams but unfortunately our team folded, so I had to go to another team called Alexandria Rovers. I played with them for a couple of years and then I started playing under-20s."
Having grown up in the area, McInnes says playing for the team he idolised was a dream come true, including having the opportunity to captain the NYC side.
Almost three years to the day since he made his first-grade debut, the South Sydney hooker is preparing to face the Dragons on Sunday afternoon at the ground his NRL career began.
"It was huge. I grew up hearing stories about Souths and I know how much certain games mean to people. Playing at places like the SCG means so much to our fans.
"A lot of people in the area know you. You get the nice comments when you're walking down the street. People don't bother you, but they just say 'good on you mate, keep it up' and it means a lot to us. When we win a game, you can see the Souths jerseys everywhere. I still live in the area so it's just a dream come true."
While his main focus is helping the Bunnies in their quest for another premiership, McInnes still finds time to help out junior footy teams in his local community.
"I go down to my local club and help out a bit. I only live down the road. A couple of my old coaches are still involved with the club. I do a bit of work with my old high school as well. It's always good to give back."