Ben Marschke was so far off the Sydney Roosters' radar at the start of the season that he was only signed by feeder club North Sydney for reserve grade.
Come Friday night, he will run out as the Roosters' starting hooker in their heavyweight clash with Melbourne at AAMI Park.
Marschke's fast rise to starting in an NRL spine is one of the most unlikely of the season, after the Roosters lost four first-grade dummy-halves.
Meticulous in his planning, even coach Trent Robinson admitted he never envisaged the 23-year-old playing NRL this year, given he was in Norths' squad and not in the Roosters' top 30.
"A month-and-a-half ago we had, Jake (Friend), Sam Verrills ready to come back and we had Freddy Lussick and Adam Keighran," Robinson said.
"All those guys ready to play. And then here we are with Ben ready to play.
"So it's great for him to have risen to the challenge in the last couple of weeks really like what we've seen.
"That's credit to North Sydney and their recruitment. That wasn't through the Roosters, that was through North Sydney."
A product of the Roosters junior system after moving down from Rockhampton as a teenager, Marschke played SG Ball and under-20s for the club.
He and twin Jesse then moved to Newtown in 2018 and onto Canterbury for reserve grade in 2019, before last year's competition was called off.
The Bulldogs' decision to align with Mounties in NSW Cup then prompted a return for the pair to the Bears, where it was expected Ben would spend this year.
But Friend's career-ending concussion, Verrills' delay on return from a knee injury and utility Keighran's broken hand opened up a bench spot in round four.
He had just his two first training sessions with the team before that game, but played 63 minutes in last week's win over Cronulla.
It was enough for Robinson to back him to start this week ahead of Keighran after a win at the judiciary, while brother Jesse is also on the extended bench as cover.
"I've always liked watching both Marschkes play and I was really happy when I saw them back at North Sydney," Robinson said.
"I know them as people, but you don't know how they're going to play.
"He (Ben) was really really comfortable when he walked into training and trained with the guys and passed the ball and tackled.
"Then that's what we've seen in the game so far. So he's just got to remain grounded and continue to deliver."
Australian Associated Press