DANNY Maiava sat in the old grandstand at Newcastle's No. 2 Sportsground, anxiously watching the minutes tick by, waiting for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take on the might of the British and Irish Lions.
It was a bitter-sweet experience for the then Mayfield-East prop.
Maiava was Newcastle's sole representative in the 1989 Country squad but was on the bench and did not get on the field.
"It was a bit of an anticlimax," Maiava told the Newcastle Herald this week. "In those days, you basically needed a doctor to get replaced.
"There were a couple of times one of the front-rowers went down and I thought 'here is my chance'.
"I just remember being cold and stuck in that grandstand."
Michael Prior and Spiro Lozenkovski were given the nod up front over Maiava.
"It was an all-Illawarra front row," Maiava said.
"I had to bide my time. Unfortunately it didn't come."
The clash at No. 2 on July 19, 1989, was the Lions' first against the boys from the bush since a Phil Hawthorne-led outfit was edged out 6-3 in 1966 at Manuka Oval, Canberra.
The tourists arrived in Newcastle having beaten the Wallabies 19-18 in the third Test in Sydney four days earlier to clinch the series 2-1.
The midweek team were no slouches. Brendan Mullin scored a hat-trick, Gary Armstrong crossed for two and they ran in 14 tries in total. Scott Hastings was on the bench.
"They were an awesome side," Maiava said.
"We got to socialise with them at an after-match function at The Waratahs Rugby Club and then went into town with them.
"They were a really good bunch of blokes."
Maiava moved to Sydney club Northern Suburbs in 1992 and went on to represent Western Samoa.
He returned to Newcastle to lead the Wildfires' foray into the Shute Shield before embarking on a successful coaching career at the Wildfires. They were axed from the Sydney competition in 1999 and Maiava moved to the local club and representative scene, including taking Lake Macquarie from wooden spoon to within a game of the grand final last season.
Maiava will be at Hunter Stadium tonight for the Lions' battle with Combined County.
Wanderers prop Dylan Evans is on the bench for Combined Country.
Maiava, for one, will be praying he gets on.