Six years ago an awestruck teenage Ashley Taylor stood beside Johnathan Thurston, grinning wildly as he posed for a photo with his idol.
On Friday night they stood shoulder-to-shoulder for the Indigenous All Stars, a match in which Taylor enriched his reputation as Thurston’s heir apparent.
During the NRL All Stars match, NITV presenter Nathan Appo posted to social media a picture of the pair together taken in 2011.
In it, Thurston is handing Taylor his jumper for the Queensland Murri under-16s, who played in a curtain-raiser to the 2011 All Stars game on the Gold Coast.
“There were a few of us from our my way who came together and we didn’t know we were going to be a part of a massive week like that,” Taylor said of the photo.
“When I got that jersey, as you can see in the photo, it was unreal.
“And to play alongside him is even better. It’s a dream come true. It took a lot of effort to get from there to here.”
After a boom rookie year for the Titans in 2016, Taylor looks poised to take the next step.
His performance for the Indigenous All Stars at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium typified his skill and potential.
He started and finished a scintillating try early in the first half.
Not only did he touch the ball twice in the razzle-dazzle movement, he had the grit and presence of mind to get up after being knocked down to be on the spot when his side needed him.
It was the kind of effort-on-effort play which has made Thurston’s name and something Taylor wants to replicate.
Thurston revealed he had given Taylor, his roommate all week, a talking-to after he fell out of the game in the second quarter.
After Thurston left the field, the side looked listless with the World All Stars running in two tries in the shadows of halftime to get back into the match.
The North Queensland maestro urged his protege to take the game by the horns and he responded as Laurie Daley’s Indigenous side ran out 34-8 winners.
“With the young boys it’s about game management, how to control a game, how to close out a game,” Thurston said when asked about his advice to Taylor this year.
“When you’re under pressure how to get your side back into the game – you do that with your halves and you have to be a bit more of a dominant force, he’s the main playmaker at the Titans.
“He needs to be a bit more dominant and tell the boys where to go.”