Parramatta paid for one to play against them and figured the other's career was over before it began, only for great mates Ryan Matterson and Josh Aloiai to line up opposite the Eels this Easter Monday.
Four years after each was cut loose from the Blue & Gold fold, ex-Eels juniors Matterson and Aloiai have reunited to cement starting spots in Michael Maguire's back row at Wests Tigers.
Matterson arrived this year as a premiership winner from the Roosters, where it's understood Parramatta's previous management paid a significant portion of his 2016 salary.
During the same pre-season that Matterson shifted east, Aloiai was yet to crack first grade and fearing he might not, doctors conceding a badly broken hip was "potentially career-ending".
Told he was unwanted by the Eels, his shift to the Tigers proved the best thing for him, with his old under 20s halfback dialling in midway through last year to size up a possible reunion at Concord.
"[Aloiai] was the first person I told, that I was thinking about coming to the Tigers," Matterson tells NRL.com.
"He had only good things to say about the club and it gave me confidence with that decision, and I'm glad I spoke to him first.
"We've always said we'd end up playing together but I didn't think it'd happen this soon.
"I had two more years at the Roosters and I didn't think I'd be getting out of the contract. But it's been a blessing since I've come here and got to play with him."
Aloiai still recalls fondly the first time he played against the Tigers "new serial pest", a 2014 Junior Kangaroos-Kiwis clash.
"We were still in Parramatta 20s then, and that was a pretty heated haka that year," Aloiai grins.
"I got right up in his face and was staring him down. It was a cool moment and we won too, so it was pretty sweet."
With Aloiai living in close proximity to Parramatta's old training grounds, Matterson gravitated to the shy, homesick Kiwi kid all those years ago.
Despite landing at rival clubs until this year the friendship stuck fast, from first grade and rep debuts, through injuries and uncertainty.
Matterson still marvels at Aloiai's bounce back from that busted hip.
Aloiai is proud to see Matterson rediscover that cheeky half within after head knocks left him housebound for eight weeks last year and sleeping up to 16 hours a day.
"Dislocating or breaking your hip, that's a big injury," Matterson says.
"A lot of people don't come back at their best, [Aloiai] has come back even better I think.
"The work he put in, as a mate I knew he was down in the dumps but he said he was going to get past it and recover. Since then he's had more injuries too.
"But having got through that big injury, I think he's found his way to get through those.
"It was a lot of individual stuff that rehab we're you're isolated from the team. I've experienced a few of those injuries where you're by yourself and in a bit of a dark place.
"He broke his hand last year but it was nothing to him, he's come out the other side of adversity really well. And now we're getting to play together, it's pretty special."
Eels v Wests Tigers - Round 6