IT wasn't your typical National Rugby League debut match, but that didn't make it any less special for Sam McIntyre.
The former Port Macquarie Sharks junior became the 233rd Wests Tigers first grader when he came off the bench last Saturday in their 36-20 victory over North Queensland.
He admitted he had unusual memories of achieving a childhood dream with few more than just his mum, dad, nan, pop and one of his best mates in attendance.
"It's pretty crazy because of the COVID restrictions; there weren't many people in the crowd and I could hear my family yelling throughout the game," McIntyre said.
"Usually I don't hear them because there are crowds at games and it's all a blur and only background noise but because there was no one there I knew where they were and what they were saying.
"That's one thing I'll definitely take out of my debut, that's for sure."
McIntyre admitted there wasn't a great deal of difference between what his debut would look like that he had created in his head compared to what eventuated.
"It was very humbling to be out there and finally get to play top-level footy and fulfill a dream," he said.
"Not a lot of people from Port Macquarie make it to the NRL because it isn't a big town, so it was very special for me."
But there was one person who the 22-year-old wished could have been in attendance - best friend Sinead McNamara.
She was tragically killed while on board a superyacht while in the Greek Islands in 2018.
"I always think about her and all the stuff I'm going through; I had her family reach out to me during the week which was awesome and their support was really appreciated," McIntyre said.
"I wish she could have been there or been able to see it on tv, but I'm sure she would have been proud."
McIntyre has again been named in coach Michael Maguire's 17-man squad for Sunday night's clash with the Bulldogs.
Now 'first grade debut' has been ticked off his rugby league bucket list, the second-rower is now focused on achieving the next goal.
"It was a special moment for me, but I can't celebrate it too much because the NRL season is a grind and especially with COVID there are no byes or any breaks to wind down at all," he said.
"That first game is done and now it's onto the next job which is the Bulldogs this weekend.
"I want to build on what I did last week, get my game fitness up again after not playing for a few months and get more involved, keep being selfless and keep doing my job."
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