Dreams can come true. Just ask Andy Saunders.
The Quirindi product and former Farrer star achieved a lifelong dream on Sunday when he made his NRL debut.
“It just goes to show dreams can come true.
“This is something I’ve wanted since I was a kid,” Saunders told bulldogs.com.au after the Canterbury side’s dramatic come-from-behind win over the Newcastle Knights.
The 22-year old became Bulldog #779 when he was thrown into the action at about the 30th minute mark to a raucous cheer from his big troop of supporters.
Around 70 family and friends made the trip down, and the prop admitted to getting a bit emotional when he caught up with his family after the game.
“It’s such a special moment in my life and I’m just so thankful for what’s just happened,” he said.
Among those watching on were brother Will and parents Charlie and Liz, who had to delay their travel plans after learning that Andy had been named on the bench.
“Mum and dad were going on an around Australia trip.
“They were supposed to leave last week but had to put it off,” Will said.
He said proud wasn’t the word to describe how it felt watching Andy run on.
There were a few nerves when he took that first hit-up, but they were quickly abated.
“He had a great game. I don’t think you could have asked for a better debut,” he said.
The only thing might have been a try. He almost got one.
One of the standout performers for the club’s Intrust Super Premiership side, Saunders is already earning comparisons to long-time Bulldogs enforcer Mark O'Meley.
“They’re all calling him the new Mark O’Meley,” Will said.
Two years Andy’s elder, the two spent many an hour tackling each other in the backyard, and while a handy player in his own right, Will readily acknowledges Andy was the better footballer.
A junior Kangaroo in 2014, he moved to the Bulldogs from Penrith this season, and was, Will felt, destined to play NRL.
“It wasn’t a question of if, it was a question of when. Everyone knew he was going to make it,” he said.
He couldn’t have asked for a much bigger game to make his debut in, with Josh Reynolds playing his final game at the Bulldogs’ spiritual home - Belmore.
Saunders had said heading in how special it was going to play at Belmore.
“There’s so much heritage here,” he said.
The game lived up to the hype. Down 18-8 with less than five minutes remaining, the Bulldogs conjured two late tries, and then survived a penalty attempt after the bell to escape with a 20-18 win.