I remember Jack Wighton kicking around Orange before he was packed up and sent to Canberra as a 16-year-old, not that I knew him personally, after all he's three years younger than me so we didn't exactly roll in the same circles.
I knew him by reputation though.
Even then his reputation on the field preceded him, through his efforts with Bloomfield, Orange CYMS and Group 10 - his unbelievable under-15 side in particular - he always looked a kid who could be just about anything in the game.
If he allowed himself to reach his potential, that is.
You've got to give yourself a little pat on the back sometimes, you know, it's easy to go the other way so to be standing here talking [after the last 12 months], it feels good, it really does.Jack Wighton
Off the field his reputation preceded him in a way too and, well, he probably said it best in an interview with NRL.com before his State of Origin debut earlier this year - "I was a bit of a scallywag ... footy saved me, definitely. I could've gone the wrong way many, many times."
Let's fast forward a bit, a number of years.
Let's go past the move to Canberra, the NSW under-age gigs, the Australian Schoolboys spot, the NRL debut and the Country Origin and Indigenous All Stars selections, to the point where he did just that, he went the wrong way.
He was left facing a potential jail sentence after being charged with five counts of assault following a drunken rampage in early 2018. He pleaded guilty, was handed a two-month suspended sentence, a good behaviour bond and a $3,500 fine.
Through that, naturally, his fate was also in the Raiders' and the NRL's hands, the risk of his contract being torn up and him being thrown into rugby league purgatory was very real.
After a monumental spray from coach Ricky Stuart the Raiders chose to stick by him though, handing down their own punishment before the NRL stepped in and bumped it up to 10 weeks along with a $30,000 fine.
Raiders CEO Don Furner made it very clear at the time the club's decision wasn't strictly related to rugby league too, it was bigger than that.
Let's fast forward a bit again though, about 12 months this time.
We move through the remorse, the soul-searching, the community service, the self-imposed contract to stay out of the Canberra CBD, the renewed commitment to his family and the pledge to repay his club, his teammates and his fans.
We move through Wighton's much-publicised shift from fullback to five-eighth too, one he was hesitant about at first but put in enough overtime to make successful, to this point, where there's no denying he's one of the competition's premier halves.
We're just days out from Wighton's maiden grand final appearance and Canberra's first since 1994, which the Green Machine booked with an epic, 16-10 preliminary final win over South Sydney last Friday night.
We're also at a point where most of what we're reading about Wighton alludes to him completing his road to redemption by helping the Raiders to their first title in more than two decades.
The narrative's wonderful, it'll be a great story to write if that happens and, sure, that angle needs to be played out because 12 months ago his career was in serious jeopardy.
But Furner's perspective is so important, it's about far more than rugby league, it has to be.
Wighton's a father twice over and he made no secret of the fact his daughters Ariah and Aaliyah have been his main motivation in making those pledges of reparation.
The structure and support rugby league and the Raiders gave him helped, he's said as much, and of course as his livelihood the sport was a linchpin and avenue for success in his return from the doldrums.
But Wighton still had to make those choices and follow through on them, Wighton still had to put in the work and Wighton still had to make sure he learned from his mistakes, Wighton still needs to make sure he doesn't make them again.
He doesn't need a premiership ring to have earned redemption, he's already redeemed himself and he should be incredibly proud of his turnaround. Even though footy played a role again, this time he saved himself.
He is proud too, it seems, although he was as understated as ever Wighton admitted to being in somewhat of a state of disbelief when speaking with raiders.com.au following his side's win over Souths.
"You've got to give yourself a little pat on the back sometimes, you know, it's easy to go the other way so to be standing here talking [after the last 12 months], it feels good, it really does," he said.
This wouldn't be a grand final week column without touching on that decider properly, which Wighton has confirmed he'll be "all good" for despite picking up a shoulder injury last week.
"I made one promise at the start of the year and that was to pay the club back and to pay the boys back and I think this is the next step, the big dance, and I can't wait," he said.
"Many of us have tried for years and it's one of [those] thing that don't come around often.
"We've had a lot of old boys throughout the year come and talk to us and they tell us how special it is and, you know, to take [the opportunity] with both hands, so to get there, it's just amazing."
It's impossible not to get swept up in the Raiders' fanfare too, even if they did knock out my Rabbitohs last weekend. Plus, any time the Roosters get beaten that's a good thing.
Iceland still did the Viking Clap better but - I can't believe I'm about to write this - Up The Milk.
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