Don's delight after early struggle
Just as it took him a while to make his mark in the NRL, Gold Coast winger Anthony Don had a less than auspicious start to his days in junior rugby league.
A soccer player for most of his younger days, Don's local junior league team, the Grafton Ghosts, didn't have a team in his age group and the thought of joining cross-town rivals the South Grafton Rebels didn't even bare thinking about.
So Don and all of his mates from the soccer team switched codes en masse to start playing junior league in under-14s and despite the lack of early success, still managed to find fun in playing footy together every weekend.
"We were a pretty ordinary team the first year," Don told NRL.com. "The first year we didn't win any games, the second year we won two and then in 16s we made the finals.
"It's pretty funny thinking back. We used to get on the bus and drive to Ballina who were a good team in our age and we'd have a bet on how much we'd get beat by because we knew we were pretty bad.
"If we got beat by 30 we'd had a great day.
"We just had a great time, a bunch of mates travelling around the Northern Rivers area and we loved every minute of it."
Don has a rich rugby league history running through his family with his grandfather Ron Willey a tourist with the 1952-53 Kangaroos and legendary coach and uncle Sean Willey playing two games for North Sydney.
But, just as they provided the impetus for his eventual switch to rugby league, Don says that it was his mates who he remains close to to this day who kept him in soccer until his teenage years.
"I always had a family history in league with my grandfather (Ron Willey) playing footy so I always wanted to try league at one point but I played soccer for the most part of my juniors," said Don, who has scored 40 tries in 66 NRL appearances to date.
"My group of mates that I went to school with, we were all playing soccer so we were all content playing soccer.
"I don't think I pestered my mum and dad because I would have had to go and play for South Grafton Rebels, which I wasn't too keen on.
"I was happy playing soccer and then once the team got going I had to try and convince mum and dad to let me play and they were fine with it and got into it and I've loved every game since."