Dene Halatau can recount when most members of the Wests Tigers 2005 premiership team made their NRL debuts.
Not just his own, alongside Robbie Farah in the 2003 clash with Manly at Leichhardt Oval. But also those of Liam Fulton, Bryce Gibbs, Chris Heighington, Bronson Harrison, Anthony Laffranchi, Daniel Fitzhenry and a 17-year-old Benji Marshall, who is now the oldest player in the NRL.
“All of us are still good mates,” Halatau said. “Obviously the premiership binds you for life, as anyone who has won one would say, but we probably valued it more for the fact that so many of us had come through together in 2003 and 2004.
“It rings true that if you get a high number of players coming through your juniors or debuting at your club you are going to have some success at the top level. The Panthers are probably the best example at the moment."
The majority of the Wests Tigers side which beat North Queensland in the 2005 grand final had made their NRL debut with the club and it is a common theme among premiership winning teams.
Besides the 2016 Cronulla Sharks and the 1999 Melbourne Storm, whose roster had been mostly drafted from the defunct Perth Reds and Hunter Mariners, every team to taste grand final glory in the NRL era has been dominated by players whose careers began at the club.
“Premierships are years in the making,” former Melbourne second-rower Ryan Hoffman said. “To get that cohesion and camaraderie takes years of work and being together.
“A lot of those teams have less off-field problems as well, because players understand what the club is about and what their expectations are.”
Hoffman was one of 11 players in the Storm teams that won the 2007 and 2009 grand finals who debuted at the club, along with Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk.
He also played in the 2012 premiership-winning team that boasted 10 players whose first NRL appearance was in a purple jersey, while 14 members of the Melbourne 2017 team debuted for the club.