GROWING up, not an afternoon went by when Dylan Phythian wasn't outside playing footy on the street or down at the nearby park.
Alongside him in his formative years at Glendale were the Walsh brothers, including new halves partner Luke.
But it's only now, all these years later and having both tasted NRL at different stages, they get the chance to line up next to each other for real at Central.
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"I grew up with him and his brothers over at Glendale and there wasn't an afternoon when we weren't in the cul-de-sac playing touch together or down at the park playing footy," Phythian told the Newcastle Herald.
"So it's kind of good being able to get out on the field and play proper footy with him. He's a very classy player and plays different to anyone else I've ever played with.
"The main thing is how much time he has with the ball and it's made everything so much easier for me."
They combined for the first time in Central's 32-12 win over Souths at Townson Oval on Sunday after Walsh missed the opening two rounds through injury.
Five-eighth Phythian now feels "back in the swing of things" but admitted some rust and frustration initially as he returned after 12 months off, only surpassed in duration by his recovery from a knee reconstruction in 2017.
It was during this latest period he and partner Kirby welcomed into the world son Kyree, who will be rugged up in blue and white supporter gear at St John Oval this Sunday when the Butcher Boys host The Entrance.
"That was the main reason I didn't go back and play any local league [last year], with him coming in the middle of August it was a good opportunity to have some time off and enjoy all that," he said.
Phythian, who lives at Tingira Heights and works as a plasterer, contemplated a return to Manly feeder club Blacktown having played the NSW Cup season opener in 2020 before the competition was cancelled because of coronavirus.
"There was a couple of phone calls and discussions, but I didn't want to move down there," the 25-year-old said.
"I wouldn't say I'm getting old, but I'm not young anymore either where I can be travelling around and not knowing if it's going to work out."
However, having returned home from a Queensland Cup stint with Burleigh in 2018 and 2019, the NRL dream still flickers for the former Knights squad member.
"It's a matter of playing the right footy and being seen for it," he said.
"The dream is definitely still there. I've got the hunger for it. One day hopefully."
As for goals at Central in 2021.
"The ultimate goal is to be in that game at the end of the year," he said.
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