MANLY utility Ben Farrar's rugby league journey has almost turned full circle.
The Newcastle-born 23-year-old played schoolboys and juniors with Knights Jarrod Mullen, Cory Paterson, Scott Dureau and Luke Walsh and he spent a couple of years in the Knights' lower grades before opportunity knocked elsewhere.
Farrar's first big break came in 2005 at Parramatta, where he spent another two years honing his skills in the lower grades, then North Queensland signed him to his first full-blown contract in 2007 and he went on to play 38 NRL games for the Cowboys.
But when Manly offered him a mid-season switch last year, trading places with Michael Bani, Farrar leapt at the chance.
As much as he respected the Cowboys for giving him a start, moving from Townsville to Sydney's northern beaches meant being only a 100-minute drive on the F3 freeway from his home town.
"There was talk about it for a month but within three or four days a decision was made and I was down here training with the boys, so it was all pretty sudden, but I'm very thankful it all happened now and I'm really enjoying my time at Manly," said Farrar, who will line up against Newcastle at Bluetongue Stadium on Saturday night.
"The Cowboys were good enough to see my side of it and grant me a release and I don't have one bad word to say about the Cowboys.
"They gave me a shot when I was young, so I've got great respect for them and a lot of good mates up there.
"But Manly gave me an opportunity to play for a very successful club and on the other side of the coin it got me a lot closer to home.
"I'm from Newcastle and I've got a lot of family and friends there and they're pretty important to me."
Farrar is the son of former Western Suburbs Rosellas prop John and the nephew of premiership-winning former Canterbury, NSW and Australian hard man Andrew.
He and Mullen have been friends since they were in primary school and they remain best of mates.
"I finished school at St Francis Xavier, where I came through with a lot of the boys that are still there today, and I'm still very good mates with all of them," he said.
"When I finished year 12, you're hopeful you'll cut it in the NRL but you're not positive about it.
"I was 17 and wanted to concentrate on football but I also wanted something to fall back on and Parramatta offered me a traineeship.
"It was nothing against the Knights at all.
"It was just the way things worked out that Parra gave me an opportunity and the time was right for me to see how I'd go in the big, bad world."
Farrar said he still kept in regular contact with Mullen, Dureau and Paterson and he always enjoyed the chance to play against them.
Wearing different-coloured jerseys, that happened twice last year.
He played in North Queensland's 36-10 victory in Townsville on May 25 then inflicted another defeat on his home-town team two months later when he scored two tries in Manly's 44-20 win at Gosford.
"My uncle and Jarrod's dad, Steve, played footy together at Canterbury and my old man has been good mates with the Mullen boys, so I've known the Mullen family for a long time and with that came a friendship with Jarrod that's been ongoing for a fair while."
"We're best mates and I still talk to him a lot and see a lot of him and I'm still pretty close with Scotty and Pato, as well. We all still keep in touch, because it's important to keep those friendships that you've had for a long time."
After playing 13 games for Manly last season, Farrar has been on the wing for their losses to the Eels and Tigers, but in the absence of injured fullback Brett Stewart (knee), coach Des Hasler has thrown him the No.1 jersey for the game against the Knights.
"We're coming off a couple of losses from a couple of games we should have won but we haven't, so as a team we've got a job to do this weekend and we're all really looking forward to it," he said.
"Although we haven't got any points on the board yet as far as wins go, we've played some pretty good footy for a fair while during games but little momentum swingers have cost us.
"Individually, if we all do our job and stick together as a unit, things should turn around pretty soon.
"I enjoy playing fullback, but it's not all about me and if Dessie wants me to play there and he's got the confidence in me to play there and do a job for the team, that's what I've got to do."