The 2021 NRL season began in similar fashion for Western Rams juniors Matt Burton and Billy Burns but it couldn't have ended any different.
Despite that, both have spoken about the appreciation for their clubs and what they achieved this year.
Both Dubbo's Burton and former Parkes Spaceman Burns started the season battling for a spot in the Penrith Panthers' first grade side.
As the season began their paths went in different directions as Burton soon forced his way into the Panthers' starting side while a lack of game time resulted in Burns being granted a mid-season release to sign with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Burns went on to play 14 games for the Dragons, more than he did in three years with the Panthers, while Burton shot to prominence on the way to being named in the Dally M Team of the Year and playing a key role in his side's premiership victory.
The premiership win brought the curtain down on Burton's time at the foot of the mountains, with a move to play in the halves at the Bulldogs locked in for next season.
After celebrating the title with his teammates, Burton took time out this week to thank the Panthers for all they had done for him since he made the move from Dubbo.
"You gave me the chance to fulfil my childhood dream and I will be forever grateful for that," Burton said in a message to the Panthers on social media.
"It has been an absolute honour to say I was a part of the team and an incredible journey.
"The friendships I have made, I'll remember for the rest of my life."
Burton will now be part of a Bulldogs team determined to climb the ladder in 2022.
Burns' Dragons are another eager for better things next year after the Red V endured a year filled with disappointing performances on the field and controversy off it.
Despite that, it was still a special year for Burns as he got to represent the club he supported growing up and nail down a starting spot in the second-row.
"Getting to pull the Red V jersey on was pretty special for me," Burns said the Dragons' website.
"growing up supporting the club, obviously was obviously big in my childhood so getting to put on that Red V for games like Anzac Day was an experience I'll remember, for sure."
Burns said one of the major reasons he agreed to the Dragons move was simply to get more game time.
The Parkes junior made his NRL debut in 2019 but only played 12 times for the Panthers, while he managed two tries in 14 games this season.
"The year began pretty rocky but the finish it with that number 11 on my back a few times in a row was definitely pleading for me," he said.
Burns will again play for the Dragons next season.
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