At the start of the season, Canberra veteran David Shillington thought a move to England was looking more likely in 2015 than reaching his 200-game milestone in the NRL.
Languishing in reserve grade then dogged by injury, the prop only returned to first-grade in round 10 via the bench.
But the 32-year-old came back with a vengeance – averaging almost 140m and 11 hit-ups per game and, in the process, secured a two-year deal with Gold Coast.
Monday’s clash with Wests Tigers will be his 200th senior appearance, 11 years after his debut.
“Part of me thought I might not even reach it this year and that I might head off overseas,” Shillington admitted on Wednesday.
“I thought it might’ve come earlier, but sometimes you have to persevere with things in footy and I’m glad to finally make it.”
This week’s match at GIO Stadium also marks enforcer Josh Papalii’s 100th in the NRL.
The Raiders, currently 10th, need to win at least four of their remaining five games if they are to reach the finals.
All are against sides below them on the ladder, with the second-last Tigers being the lowest ranked.
But Shillington is wary of underestimating the joint venture, given their surprising last-start win over Melbourne.
“Sometimes the easy ones are harder to win,” he said.
“But if we can, there’s a finals spot for us.”
Working against the Raiders is the loss of two key players in hooker Josh Hodgson (ankle) and damaging forward Sia Soliola (fractured cheekbone).
Glen Buttriss has been thrown a first-grade lifeline and will replace Hodgson at No.9, while Jarrad Kennedy has been elevated to the starting side in Soliola’s absence.
The change has made way for NSW Cup star Mitch Barnett on the bench.
Sisa Waqa, meanwhile, returns from a knee injury to fill in for Edrick Lee who’s suspended for one week.
“It’s going to be a difficult week for us,” Shillington added.
“Some of those players that are out this week, like Hodgo and Sia, they’ve been our best this year by far. Every week they’re putting in 100 per cent and they’ve been crucial to our performances.
“It’s really important that we have our new players in their positions, training hard, and for the rest of us polishing up on a few things that we need to fix up from last week.”