FROM Gymea Gorilla to a reserve in Cronulla Sharks' 1978 grand final clash — it was certainly a steep learning curve for former Cronulla skipper David Hatch.
As the Gorillas prepare to celebrate their 50th anniversary Hatch reflected on his rapid rise through the ranks at the Sharks.
"I sat on the bench for the under-23s without getting a run," Hatch said.
"So I went back down and started training with Gymea again.
"Then I finally played a game in the under-23s and, after a few games of second grade, coach Norm Provan called me to sit on the bench in the [first grade] grand final.
"I'd only turned 19 and was nervous but I was jumping out of my skin."
Although Hatch didn't play in that grand final — a controversial 11-all drawn game against Manly which was replayed mid-week where a weakened Sharks side lost — Hatch went on to have a decorated decade-long career at the club.
His 180 first grade tally ranks him ninth overall for most games played at the Sharks.
But it all started for Hatch as a five-year-old playing for the Gorillas.
He went on to play 13 consecutive seasons at the club before being graded by the Sharks.
"We had a really successful club at Gymea, especially in my later years," Hatch said.
"I was lucky enough to win five premierships at the club before going through all the grades at Cronulla."
Hatch is one of three Gorillas to have captained the Sharks, alongside Greg Pierce and Greg Nixon.
Starting in 1962 the club — which was formed from Gymea Bay Public School — was known as Gymea Bay Dragons.
It evolved as the Gorillas in the 1970s, having also been known as the Lillies.
Brad Buchanan, who played for St George, was a teammate of Hatch in Gymea's junior sides in the 1970s.
Outside backs Brett Howland and present NRL player Mitch Brown are also Gymea juniors.
Having relocated to Ulladulla almost 20 years ago, Hatch continued his involvement with rugby league, coaching Milton Ulladulla Bulldogs to a first grade title.
"I still follow the Sharks," said Hatch who works as a sales representative for a fishing company.
"It's good to see them going so well."
Hatch will help celebrate the club's 50th by going to the anniversary dinner at Tradies Gymea on Saturday, June 9.
The night is part of a three-day celebration which includes a golf day next Friday and a golden oldies game on Sunday, June 10.