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Dragons utility Kurt Mann.

Kurt Mann once played 28 consecutive games without making a handling error.

It is the kind of perfection the St George Illawarra five-eighth will be aiming to replicate in the semi-final against South Sydney on Saturday night in what is the greatest test of the 25-year-old's career.

Mann was signed by Melbourne in 2013 with the hope that he could eventually fill Gareth Widdop’s shoes. On Saturday night he will replace the injured Widdop in a showdown with the Rabbitohs.

When the utility, whose preference is to play in the halves, was in Year 12 at St Brendan’s College in Central Queensland, he was under the guidance of his First XIII mentor, Terry Hansen.

A "possession is nine-tenths of the law" type of coach, Hansen scrupulously kept count of how many times his players coughed it up. Next to Mann's name he did not write a digit for an entire season.

"Kurt played fullback for me in 2010 and he didn't drop the ball in 28 games that whole year. Whether it was collecting grubbers, taking bombs or catching dodgy passes he was 100 per cent … and he got plenty thrown at him," Hansen told NRL.com

"I loved that stat and kept records on all my players, and he had a perfect year. I've never had a player do it before and I doubt it will happen again.  It's unheard of. He just had terrific hands."

Kurt's the Mann to replace Widdop

Hansen - a schoolboy mentor for decades who coached the likes of Matt Scott, Jake Granville, Corey Oates and Dave Taylor - said the stat revealed Mann's confidence and skill, and he had another story that is legendary in Central Queensland which revealed his courage.

St Brendan's were long odds to beat Ignatius Park College in the biggest game of the year and Hansen said Mann's brave performance gave him confidence he would not shirk his work if the Rabbitohs' trio of Burgess brothers run all night at him.

"My favourite story is when he was in Year 11 and we were playing the Confraternity Shield final in Bundaberg and he was a skinny little centre," Hansen grinned.

"He got splattered by this big Polynesian kid. It put his nose all over his face and blood was squirting everywhere, so my trainer went out, waved his arms and said 'he's done'. Kurt said 'I'm not going off' and I knew there and then I had a real footy player.

"We stuffed his nose with turmeric powder to stop the bleeding, taped him up and he absolutely starred for us, so there is no doubting his courage.

"The Burgess brothers can run at him as much as they like and I know one thing; Kurt won't shirk it. He’ll have a go."

Saturday night will be the fourth time this year St Brendan's College has had two of its former students lining up in the halves together in an NRL game with Ben Hunt also a former league star at the school.

Rabbitohs v Dragons - Semi-Final

"They are both kids from the bush, both have worked hard to get where they are," Hansen said.

Clint Zammit, now the recruitment boss at the Cowboys, was Mann's manager when he signed with Melbourne from the Knights at the end of 2012.

"If he gets time there I am sure Kurt can develop into a handy half," Zammit said.

"I knew he would develop as a player and a person at the Storm and there was a pathway for a young half/five-eighth. He got out of his comfort zone and grew up.

"I knew if he got through Melbourne he could get through anything and now now he's such a valuable player to St George Illawarra because he can play anywhere in the back-line."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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