THE late Bryant "Cowboy" Snowden always reckoned his grandson would play for NSW.
Kade Snowden, the Knights junior who had to leave Newcastle in 2008 to pursue his NRL career with Cronulla, will realise his grandfather's bold prediction when he pulls on a Blues jersey and makes his State of Origin debut at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday night.
"Cowboy always said when Kade was a little boy, that he'd play State of Origin and he'd play for Australia, and I thought that was the funniest thing," Kade's mother Lisa said last night.
"But he was right, even though he's not here to see it. I was pretty choked up about that last night more than anything . . . and it was a bit sad, because I knew he'd be so proud of him.
"He loved watching the kids play football and was such a big part of it. He saw Kade play for the Knights and NSW junior teams and Australian Schoolboys but he's missed out on this, which is a bit sad."
Though Kade's stoic facial expressions and the impassive, unwavering tone of his deep voice would suggest otherwise, Lisa said her son was excited about the prospect of making his Origin debut.
The 23-year-old Belmont North product took the first step by representing Country Origin this year, and NSW selectors have finally rewarded his consistent form for the Sharks.
"We spoke to him last night and he's very excited. He can't wait. It's something he's wanted to do his whole life; since he was a little boy," Lisa said yesterday.
"He knew about 10 or 15 minutes before they announced it, so he rang us and told us before it went on the TV and we were all screaming and very excited, because I knew it was something he always wanted to do.
"I don't think he has very many emotions, Kade. He just keeps it all to himself and on the football field, but I know he's very excited.
"A few of his mates he played with at Lakes and Belmont North have rung to say they're going to come down to see him, and all our friends and family have been messaging him, so it's been a great day. Rugby league has been his most favourite thing all his life, ever since he was a little boy."
Kade's father Chris, who inherited the "Cowboy" nickname from his father, said the phone rang off the hook at the Snowden family home in Belmont North yesterday as they took call after call from well-wishers passing on their congratulations.
"I don't know how many are going down but there'll be a fair few by the sounds of things on the phone today, because everyone's been ringing," Chris said.
Chris paid tribute to Sharks and former NSW coach Ricky Stuart, who had unsuccessfully tried to recruit Kade to the Roosters in 2003, for developing the bullocking prop's skills at Cronulla.
Kade was 15 when he joined the Knights in 2002, and won the club's prestigious Carlson Club award the following year after representing NSW under 17s and Australian Schoolboys.
He captained the Knights to a 42-16 win over South Sydney in the SG Ball (under 18s) grand final in 2004, represented Australian Schoolboys again that year, and was again skipper when Penrith pipped Newcastle 22-20 in the 2006 Jersey Flegg (under 20s) decider.
Kade's NRL debut was one of six games he played for the Knights in 2005, he then played another eight in 2007, but was one of many locally produced or long-serving players unwanted by coach Brian Smith.
In his third season at Cronulla, Snowden has racked up 53 games and Stuart has often described him as one of the Sharks' most consistent players.
"I was sitting back today thinking about when he left here, and went down there, and what Ricky and the club down there have done for him, because he's come a long way," Chris said.
"Ricky's been a big part of it. He wanted him down at the Roosters when Kade was 16, and everything he said to us when we went down there, he's done, and really brought him on.
"Kade's taken that with both hands and run with it."