Just two years ago, Esera Chee Kam was looking down the barrel of an NRL career, playing with two brothers in Manly’s SG Ball team.
The teen and brothers Livingston and Michael, now a Wests Tigers centre,l were touted as rugby league’s next family dynasty, in the same vein as the Burgess family, growing up close but competitive.
Now the NSW Gen Blue outside centre is looking to follow in the footsteps of his idol Israel Folau and make his mark in rugby union.
Playing in the NSW Gen Blue program put him on a collision course with childhood hero Folau, a chance meeting one that still brings a smile to his face.
“Growing up as a little kid always following league, I've always followed Izzy Folau and just seeing him switch over to union was pretty cool,” he said.
“I got to meet him a few weeks ago and it was unreal.”
Chee Kam’s quietly-spoken nature belies his powerful build, that has made him a standout 13 in the national U20s competition this season and he has set lofty goals for his future in the code
“Just being around those (Super Rugby) guys seeing them at this level's pretty cool and you just want to work hard and hopefully one day you get to be there, playing next to them,’ he said.
U20s coach Pat McCutcheon said Chee Kam was a tantalising prospect after just two years in rugby.
“You give him time and space and he's really dangerous with the ball,” he said.
“He's a little bit unsuspecting looking at him but he's been exciting to watch.”
While he admits he was a Queensland Origin fan growing up, Chee Kam is all about NSW this weekend as he has his own taste of the bitter interstate rivalry.
“That's one of the games everyone gets hyped up for, and that's kind of like this week's game so I'm pretty keen,” he said.
“To be honest, I didn't think me and the boys would get to this stage, and I’m just really keen to rip in this weekend.”
They’ll be the underdogs against the all-conquering Reds U20s side that hasn’t dropped a game in two seasons of the Super U20s competition,, but that won’t worry them on Sunday.
McCutcheon has held the team’s reins in his first year as a coach, and said the team’s growth had astounded him.
“They've got a really strong drive within them and you can step back and watch the group flourish and I think this year we've seen, we've set the environment for them and they just jump all over it,” he said.
A win against the powerhouse northerners would just breathe a little bit more confidence into this underdog side as well, McCutcheon said.
“It's an opportunity for these young blokes to feel that passion and that rivalry. I think it's great and I hope they tear them apart,” he said.
“To go up there in their own backyard and really challenge them and knock them off and win the Super U20s in 2017 would be fantastic.
“I think it would build their confidence and give them a sense of belief that they can do it and they can achieve great things.”
Queensland will host the Super U20s final on Sunday at Ballymore, kicking off at 2pm AEST streamed LIVE on RUGBY.com.au.