When he was a kid, rookie Roosters hooker Sam Verrills would shout at Cooper Cronk on the television as the Maroons maestro heaped Origin pain on NSW.
Verrills now counts the champion No.7 as a close mate, and while the transition was initially "surreal" it quickly became normal.
He had only just turned five when Cronk made his NRL debut for the Storm in 2004. Verrills grew up watching Cronk and his Maroons mates beat his beloved Blues time and again.
"I actually blew up at him all the time [on TV] because he kept winning for Queensland," Verrills recalls.
"Now I play with him; it was surreal at the start, at the start of pre-season and all that but now it's just he's a teammate, a good mate, it's awesome."
Verrills has had to learn on the fly after being thrust into the starting No.9 role for the Roosters following a second long-term injury to Jake Friend.
Friend's help off the field and Cronk's help both on and off it has made the transition easier.
"I think Friendy has played 10 years or 12 years and he's topped the tackle count every year," Verrills said.
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"He's just a workhorse, he always works for [the team] and his defence is the key so that's what I try to instil into my performance and my game and I worked really hard in the pre-season as my first one to come in.
"I really wanted to work on my defence. Knowing he's a great defender, I asked a lot of questions of him and how you handle it in the middle then obviously we've got Craig Fitzgibbon, [he is a] great defensive coach and he helps us a lot as well."
The inclusion of Verrills has allowed Victor Radley to return to his preferred lock role. The Roosters are unbeaten since the switch, having won four straight games.
"While Jake's out, that's a lot of confidence [the club has shown in me] and Rads was doing such a good job but obviously Rads is in his preferred position of lock," Verrills said.
"It's allowed us to play our style of footy. Anything I can do to make that happen, I'll be happy to do. The first few games I was just trying to get used to it."
When coach Trent Robinson initially told him he'd be stepping into the role until Friend's return – slated for around week one of the finals – the message was simple.
"We had a meeting, he said 'mate you're in here for a reason, you do you, back yourself' and same with all the players, they just go 'mate you're capable of it'," Verrills recalled.
"Robbo came to me and said 'you're in, it's your spot, make sure you take ownership of it'."
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Verrills was forced off at half time by a bad cork to the knee a fortnight ago and played reduced minutes in his comeback game, last Sunday's huge win over the Warriors at the SCG.
"It was just a massive cork on the knee, I couldn't actually extend it or flex it. We had to wait for the swelling to go down to see if it was good. I got through the game all right on the weekend which was good," Verrills said.
"Robbo wanted to manage the workload going into [the Warriors game], especially with the knee injury, you don't know what could have happened so he was just looking towards that."
Verrills' impressive work in his eight NRL games and his diligence at training has earned praise from Cronk.
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"No matter who comes into our football team we play the Roosters style and the Roosters way, so you need to bring guys on board and teach them the skills but also the reason why Trent picked Sam is because he's got a skillset he's been doing for a number of years," Cronk said.
"He needs to bring his strengths within the Roosters style and I think he's done that tremendously well. He's tough, he's competitive, a great defender, great service out of dummy half. They're four pretty good things you need from a No.9."