I noticed the hair first.
Stand up like a mohawk with intricately carved patterns on the shaved sides of the scalp.
The side step – which was more of a goose step at that stage, with a little jump in place before taking off the left foot – came next.
But it was the courage he had when he returned the ball that left a lasting impression.
I will always remember Karmichael Hunt’s debut.
I was 13 and I was looking at the stands at Lang Park with my father, the Broncos cap tangled in my curls, with a Brisbane scarf tied tightly around his neck, despite the heat.
We’ve been going to football every weekend for as long as I can remember. But that afternoon was different. There was a new buzz in the crowd.
You whisper about her age: “17! 17! Do you remember what you were doing at 17?”
His position: “He will play full back, great shoes to fill. Surely, he can’t be as good as Locky?”
And her hair, always her hair: “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Everything swirled between the members of the Broncos, and it didn’t take long for the murmurs and half sentences to turn into applause every time he approached the ball.
The child could play.
And he played – 125 NRL games for Brisbane, including a 2006 premiership; 10 State of Origin appearances for Queensland; and 11 tests for Australia.
Then came the code change.
It remains one of the biggest shocks in Australian sport, from Steeden to Sherrin.
Hunt’s career in the AFL started off brilliantly. He was the pin-up signed to the Gold Coast Suns before their inaugural season in 2011. He played four seasons with the team – and was the victim of some of the club’s biggest demolitions – but never really took the game.
Rugby union was a different story. The skills that made him a fan favorite at Red Hill have been back on display for the Queensland Reds since 2015. A Wallabies jersey followed before moving to the New South Wales Waratahs for two seasons.
But now, after 4,277 days, Hunt will be returning home.
The current Broncos team doesn’t look like the one they left in 2009 and the world has changed a lot too.
Avatar wasn’t released, iPads weren’t created, and Instagram didn’t exist the last time Hunt wore brown and gold.
But it’s his time away from the Broncos, more than his past NRL success at the club new manager Kevin Walters is counting on before his return to the rugby league against the Canberra Raiders.
“It’s been a good week with Karmichael back on the team. Bring all that experience, that calm to the group,” Walters said Friday morning.
And the struggling team will need all of Hunt’s composure Saturday night with another change in the middle.
Albert Kelly was originally named halfback to team up with Hunt for the first time – the seventh different combination Brisbane has tried this season – but he struggled with hamstring pain.
“We have to be mentally strong enough to get around it,” Walters said, with less experienced Tyson Gamble or Cory Peace ready to step in.
“This is what we are looking for from [Hunt]. A little leadership in those key positions and it brings a lot. “
With a nickname like Special K, Hunt would have faced obscene amounts of pressure and spotlight on and off the court previously.
But if the 34-year-old manages to somehow drag the Broncos out of a sad form drop – currently, the team is next to bottom in the standings, leads the league in bad tackles and has the second worst bout of the competition – it might just be the biggest success of his code-hopping career.