Despite almost a decade going by, Dylan Phythian reckons Chris Adams hasn't changed much at all.
The former NRL players are set to combine forces at Newcastle Rugby League club Lakes in 2023, having just kicked-off pre-season training together.
Phythian returns from a NSW Cup stint at the Knights while Adams comes back from the Central Coast.
"I remember the first time he walked into training, maybe 2014, we were young fellas and he came to Lakes from Cessnock. He still looks exactly the same as he did back then," Phythian told the Newcastle Herald.
"We've only had a couple of sessions but the things he says, the things he does and the way he leads from the front, it gives you goosebumps sometimes.
"He definitely gives you confidence just being around and it's good to have him back there [at Lakes]."
Thirty-six-year-old hooker Adams played eight NRL games for the Knights, either side of leading Lakes to their last Newcastle RL premiership in 2015.
Twenty-seven-year-old back Phythian made three NRL appearances for the Knights across 2016 and 2017, but hasn't managed a full senior campaign with Lakes previously.
Phythian twice made one-off cameos for Lakes, mid-2018 following a 12-match drug ban and once last season, in between a sole year at Central in 2021.
"I haven't played a grade game for Lakes at home yet, they've both been away," he said.
"I didn't even get to play there with Central because I was out suspended. So I hope round one  is a Sunday arvo down at Cahill Oval."
Lakes junior Phtyhian has endured quite a rollercoaster ride in the rugby league world - suffering a season-ending ACL injury in round one of NRL in 2017, having his contract terminated by the Knights in 2018 and winning a Queensland Cup title with Burleigh Bears in 2019.
A hamstring issue cut short his "surprise" 2022 campaign with the Knights in NSW Cup, however, there was no hesitation about playing on next year.
"I signed at Lakes so I was always going to play," he said.
"I'll do that [stop playing] when my body tells me I can't go anymore. I love the game too much. I had a year off when COVID hit , but that's a few years ago now and I've still got a few years left in me."
In terms of continuing to chase the NRL dream, Blacksmiths-based father and plasterer Phtyhian says "I'm a bit old now to just be hanging around cup waiting for an opportunity".
"I'm 28 next year and I'm at that point where I just want to go and enjoy my footy. Being at Lakes is a little bit less pressure and more enjoyable.
"The part-time system you've got to work, training in the arvo and then play reserve grade. It's a bit hard."
Phythian and Adams are set to join playmaker Jack Kelly, versatile Daniel Peck and forward Nick Glohe as key members of the Lakes squad.
Seagulls product Luke Huth has signed for Cessnock after time at the Knights, outside back Matt Cooper has switched to Macquarie and Shaun Boss announced his retirement at the end of 2022.
Lakes missed the finals this year and last reached a decider in 2018. Ian Bourke continues as coach.
Phythian was the only Seagulls player named in the Rebels representative squad this week.
Newcastle RL mentor Adam Bettridge was pleased to have Phythian and Cessnock's Brayden Musgrove in the mix for NSW Country Championships.
"The key for me, when I spoke to those guys, there was just no second guessing because they want to be there," Bettridge said.
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