Featherstone Rovers: Dane Chisholm ready to put friendship with Toulouse Olympique XIII’s Jy Hitchcox aside for one night
It is hardly the situation either of them could ever have imagined when they first met at Mullumbimby High School in New South Wales nor, as aspiring young players, even when they were both trying to make a name for themselves in the NRL.
Nevertheless, sport has a funny way of bringing up these surreal situations and, so, all is set for one of many intriguing subplots for the Million Pound Game at Stade Ernest Wallon.
Stand-off Chisholm, 31, was in the Featherstone side that agonisingly fell short in the same promotion decider against Toronto Wolfpack two years ago.
He has no desire to feel the same emotions this weekend, even if unbeaten Championship leaders Toulouse are the favourites and hold home advantage. But what of that friendship which started so long ago and now sees the pair as godfather to each other’s kids?
“Jy came to my high school, Mullumbimby High, around Year Nine or Ten,” recalled Chisholm, who initially moved to the UK with Hull KR on loan from Canterbury Bulldogs in 2015.
“He came from a private school. We had to put him through a few initiations to let him sit with us. We all lined up and made him run through the middle of us and hit him with sticks and stuff!
“So, I think the first few days he was a little bit off us but we ended up playing footy together and we were young; only 17 or 18 playing in the A Grade comp’ there against men.
“Me and him got up to that level together and it made us become pretty close friends.
“He went off and did his thing at (Gold Coast) Titans for a season or two and I made my way down to Melbourne (Storm).
“But it just so happened he signed at Melbourne so we got to live together there in the same house on a university campus which was crazy, having good times together. I signed at Wests Tigers after that and he followed me there so we got to play Reserve Grade and in a Grand Final together at Balmain.
“That’s when we went our separate ways. That’s when he came to sign for Featherstone.”
Winger/centre Hitchcox, 32, did join Rovers, scoring 15 tries in 2015 which earned him a move into Super League with Castleford Tigers.
He played in the Grand Final at Old Trafford two years later but – after a loan spell at Halifax - moved to Bradford where he linked briefly again with Chisholm. For the last two years he has been impressing for a star-studded Toulouse team intent on reaching the elite.
Chisholm added: “I followed over later on and I used to come and watch him play at Featherstone when I signed for Hull KR. I got to meet the Fev boys then so I already knew a couple when I signed.
“We’ve always been best mates, godfather to each other’s kids and friends for a very long time so it’s going to be cool to play against him. We’ve always had a running battle whenever we do.
“Everyone back home is going pretty crazy; it’s all in the papers about us facing each other. On the day we’re not going to be mates. I can’t wait to get out there and try and get into him as he’ll be doing to me. But it’ll be one of the proudest moments of my career if I can help get Fev into Super League for the first time.”