By Tony Webeck (NRL.com)
Tyson Frizell often finds himself scanning the field of National Youth Competition games that serve as a pre-cursor to the NRL game he is down to play in next.
He's not considering a career in player recruitment by spotting 'the next big thing', he is instead looking over his shoulder to see if any of the youngsters coming through are wearing black boots.
That's the problem when you try to set a new trend, you're always looking backwards to see if anyone else is going to follow.
Frizell's black adidas boots have become as distinctive as the garish pink and lime green numbers that have become all the rage in the NRL this season and are a throwback to when black was the only colour footy boots came in.
They are not so rare that Frizell's boots have to be made especially for him – "Maybe I'll get my own boots one day," the Dragons forward jokes – but they have become another way for the fringe Origin forward to stand out from the crowd.
"It was just a decision I made as soon as I started playing first grade," Frizell tells NRL.com ahead of the Dragons' clash with the Broncos on Friday night.
"I just was never a fan of wearing the flash, bright-coloured boots and black was a colour that no one was really wearing so just trying to be different. I'm sort of known for wearing my black boots now and it's something that I've stuck with.
"I slowly see it coming through the NYC but there's not really anyone at the moment playing in black boots in the NRL so it's good to be different."
Brought into the fringes of the New South Wales Origin squad this year, Frizell's rise from schoolboy rugby star to NRL elite has been a rapid one.
Wollongong born and bred, the 23-year-old played five Tests for Wales before being called up to play for Country Origin this year and continues to grow in stature with each season in first grade.
His explosive running on the right edge has yielded four line breaks and three tries in 16 games this season and while he came out of Blues camp with a back injury, coach Paul McGregor doesn't expect his taste of representative football will go to his head.
"Some players take it as a real bonus where they get to see the real elite players in their positions and what they do and for a young guy that's invaluable," McGregor said of his Origin exposure.
"The other way it can go is that you can get very comfortable with what you've done already and you forget about what got you to that situation.
"Only time will tell with that one but I know Tyson is a very bright kid and a very honourable boy so he's never a guy that is too confident about himself. If anything we've got to keep telling him how good he is.
"I've seen some real qualities in what Tyson can bring to our football team playing on an edge so he'll continue to do that.
"I thought the way Tyson got through last week's game, although he wasn't our best player, he got through without an injury so his training this week has been outstanding."
He is now a star in one of the most famous sporting clubs on the planet but Frizell still has the mementos from his days as a wide-eyed fan sitting on the hill at WIN Stadium in Wollongong watching his idols run around.
"I was one of those kids that went down to signing sessions and got my Dragons jersey signed with my last name on the back of the jersey too," he remembers. "I've still got that jersey today.
"It's kind of surreal thinking you were one of those kids sitting on the hill down in Wollongong watching the boys play and now you're a part of that.
"I was honestly a Trent Barrett fan who was sort of the leader of the Dragons at the time and even Ben Hornby and Ben Creagh who is the captain of our squad. Looking back it's a long time but a surreal feeling at the moment."