Cordner fights back to lead from front
HE'S the new leader of the Blues but due to several serious injuries from a young age, Boyd Cordner could have easily been just another statistic.
"To look back now and see where I've come from - some of the setbacks and everything - to be NSW captain is a pretty surreal feeling," Cordner said.
Two knee reconstructions and a broken jaw threatened to end his NRL career well before it started at 19.
Training with the Roosters NRL squad at the tender age of 16, Cordner was destined to be a star but his maturing body and a bit of bad luck did its best to stop his career before it could get started.
"He did his jaw and that was shattering. It destroyed me to see him in so much pain," his father Chris Cordner told foxsports.com.au.
"His jaw was distorted. It's got a few plates in it now. That was a real killer.
"He was in so much pain and I was thinking if you smash your jaw like that, how can you play footy again?
"He was back on the paddock in six weeks and then the following year he had a knee reconstruction. He did his ACL in a training accident.
"There were a couple there and I was thinking 'geez, wow, how do you come back from this?'"
When it comes to football, some are players are just natural born leaders. Some so gifted they pick up things after their very first attempt. There's some blokes who have freakish strength. Then there's a lucky few who possess all of the above.
When you ask Mitchell Pearce what his first memories of Cordner are and he'll tell you "ask Mase and Ogre about him".
At the time, Willie Mason and Mark O'Meley were the enforcers at the club, not that they intimidated the Test and Origin pair.
It was during one of his first sessions with the Roosters, under the watch of Brad Fittler, that Cordner was whacking the veteran forwards.
He was also keeping up with the club's fittest man, Craig Fitzgibbon.
Call it good genes, a bit of luck or hard work. In Cordner's case it's all of them. He's a natural.
So much so that as a nine-year-old he was picked in the under-12s NSW train-on squad. He was and still is the youngest player to achieve such a feat.
When he was picked up by the Roosters before his 16th birthday, the club knew they had something special. So much so, former teammate Mark O'Meley recalls the tri colours taking pre-season training to Old Bar, where Cordner's junior club the Pirates are based, for a week.
"We went down there to his junior club for a week, Freddy took us down, the whole team to train so he was recognised very young and a lot of work put into him by the Roosters," O'Meley told foxsports.com.au.
"Mase would always rave on about him. He loved him. He would always run a good line and during the opposed scrimmaging he was handling the physicality as a young kid pretty easily."
A no fuss, laid back country kid, Cordner has always been a leader.
Commanding respect from his teammates based purely on his actions, the backrower has always been a level head in a young body.
"He just always digs deep when times are tough," his father said.
"He blows me away. He sets a goal or has his sights are set and he chase it. There's something about him. Some sports people are born with it."
Cordner's maturity could be largely due to the fact he had to grow up quickly.
Having lost his mother Lanai to breast cancer when he was just four-years-old, he's leaned on his father and older brother Dane for guidance.
So you can only imagine how special it was for Cordner to phone his dad and deliver the news that he's the new Blues captain.
"He's been my number one supporter all my life and he's super proud," an emotional Cordner said after being crowned captain.
"He was over the moon. He's always proud of me and everything I do so it's no different now. I think he's happier than I am. He told me he's very proud of me and it's pretty personal stuff but along the lines of that."