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The NRL debut at 28 that almost didn’t happen

Andrew Davey was preparing to pack up his bags and head back to Queensland for a building job.

Tonight he will make his NRL debut at the age of 28.

The fifty per-cent pay cut players have been hit with due to COVID-19 has tested Davey to the very core.

He could only live on the money for another two weeks.

"I thought that ship had sailed ... a dream can come true"

It had him wondering whether he would ever get the opportunity to run out for the Blue and Gold in first grade.

“By far, coming back (after the COVID-19 break) was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I knew what I was going to be getting paid,” Davey said.

“You think that ship has sailed. I thought it sailed three or four years ago. I started to better myself and to do it now at 28 is pretty special,” he said.

Davey’s rise to become an NRL player started with bush footy, having grown up in Emerald.

He didn’t intend to make the big time but opportunities continued to present themselves.

He played in Queensland Cup for the Mackay Cutters and Townsville Blackhawks before the Eels came knocking 18 months ago.

He spent the last year playing in Canterbury Cup, but hasn’t laced up the boots since Round One, with the reserve grade competition suspended due to COVID-19.

Now, his time has come.

Head Coach Brad Arthur handed Davey his debut just ten minutes before Captain’s Run on Friday.

“He sent me a text to come and see him and I thought oh I hope I’m not in trouble.

“He basically just laid it out for me. My hands were sweaty, my knees started jiggling and I was quite nervous.

“It hasn’t quite sunk in. Getting around the boys was pretty special, they know how much it means to me,” he said.

Davey’s loved ones have moved heaven and earth to be in the stands at Lottoland tonight.

They’re coming from Townsville, Mackay, Newcastle and one great mate is driving 15 hours to be at his debut.

“A bit of a mad rush to get them all here. I didn’t think it was going to happen when I first got told, I thought there’s no way they’re going to be able to come,” Davey said.

“The only bad thing is I’m not going to be able to give them all a hug after the game but to share this special moment with them, I’m so happy they’re going to be there and I get to see them,” he said.

Davey was presented with his debut jersey by good friend and teammate David Gower after Captain’s Run.

He says he won’t wash it before having it framed and hopes his blood, sweat and tears will be strewn across the fabric for memory’s sake.