Maitland stalwart Ryan Broadley was always going to be part of grand final day at Magic Park if his beloved Magpies qualified.
But now instead cheering from the stands after an injury-marred year, Broadley is set to play following a strange twist to Maitland's squad.
Broadley has played just 10 first-grade games this year because of a broken hand, then a fractured leg. He returned in Maitland's under 20s team for the final round, but the club's successful run to the premiership and now the grand final meant there was no room for the popular 28-year-old in the top squad.
However, fellow midfielder Mat Swan will miss Sunday's decider against Edgeworth because of an overseas holiday booked before the season's draw was released.
This year's grand final is a week later in the calendar than last season, and Swan was unable to change his plans without significant financial cost.
The cruel blow for Swan has opened the door for Broadley to be part of the club's first NPL top-grade decider.
After Matt Thompson's injury-time equaliser against Broadmeadow on Sunday put Maitland through, coach Mick Bolch said Broadley would come into the grand final squad for Swan.
Broadley, who has been with Maitland since age six, played in the club's NPL semi-finals loss to Edgeworth in 2016 but had a year off in 2018 when they qualified for the play-offs for a second time.
After missing the epic semi-final tie with Magic, the maiden premiership clincher against the Jets Youth and Maitland's FFA Cup clash with the Mariners this year because of injury, Broadley was excited to get a grand final chance.
"After the year off, at the start of the season it was a pretty big effort to get the fitness up," Broadley said.
"Then just with the injuries, it's been a tough year. But if you get the nod, you're never going to say no to a grand final.
"Bolchy has been talking to me most weeks and he's always said there was a chance.
"If I get on, I get on, but just hopefully the boys win.
"I've only been back training just now, and it's hard to get back into the team when they are winning every week, which is fair enough.
"But to get a go this week, it's unreal."
The match will hold special meaning for Broadley, who came through the ranks at Maitland while they languished in second division. He was then a key player, along with brothers Justin and Chris, when they finally won promotion, and a second-tier grand final, in 2014.
"It's been a bit of a journey, especially from playing back in the NewFM days to being where we are now," he said.
"We had a couple of years where we just missed promotion, and then finally getting it in 2014, it was so good.
"It's been a pretty frustrating year for me, just with injuries, but the boys have been so good. It's been awesome.
"It should be a big week and hopefully it all goes to plan and we do the double."
Broadley was first sidelined when he had three screws inserted into a broken hand sustained in a body-check tackle against Adamstown.
He returned after a month but was out again after a blow to the inside of his knee against Broadmeadow in just second game back caused a fracture.
He spent seven weeks out before a last-ditch effort to prove his fitness for a possible finals return.
"It was the last game of the season, and it was a bit touch and go, but I thought I needed to have at least a game under my belt," he said.
"That was the last chance and I ended up playing a full game in 20s, and at training the knee has been good. It's held up well."