Joe Stimson used to idolise Melbourne Storm veteran Ryan Hoffman. Now he's taking his NRL grand final spot.
The 22-year-old second-rower is set to start in Sunday's title decider against the Sydney Roosters after the retiring Hoffman was squeezed out of the side.
Stimson said he'd always looked up to Hoffman, with the pair both attending famed Sydney rugby league nursery St Gregory's, albeit years apart.
"He was always, in my books, on a big pedestal," Stimson told AAP.
"He'd left before I got there but he's a god there.
"When I first came to Melbourne, I saw him and thought, 'Oh my god that's Ryan Hoffman, I can't talk to him', but he came and and introduced himself. He's a legend."
Stimson said he'd soaked up all he could from Hoffman, who returned to the Storm this season for his third stint at the club.
"I've learnt plenty of stuff. He's probably one of the best back-rowers ever to play so if I wasn't learning anything I wasn't listening so I was fortunate to have him here," Stimson said.
Missing the grand final is a cruel blow to Hoffman, who battled back from a serious hamstring injury to be fit for selection.
But Stimson also knows such disappointment, last year playing 15 games only to lose his place leading into the finals when Kiwi international Tohu Harris returned from injury.
Stimson said Hoffman had been the ultimate professional in dealing with his omission.
"It's tough and I wish we could both play," he said.
"You can't get too emotional in footy as you lose focus on your job."
Australian Associated Press