Luke Bateman started the year playing in front of only a few hundred people.
So does the prospect of making his NRL finals debut with more than 28,000 watching on at GIO Stadium on Saturday faze him?
“I’ll be fine,” laughed the Canberra forward, who has become a first-team regular since being plucked from reserve grade in April.
The Raiders are expecting a record turnout for their qualifying final against Cronulla, with almost all seats sold by Tuesday afternoon.
So high was demand that the club decided to release a small number of standing room tickets.
They are also exploring the option of adding temporary seating for the highly anticipated clash.
It’s the first time since 2012 the Raiders have hosted a qualifying final – which was also against the Sharks.
They attracted 24,450 fans to that game, a couple of thousand short of the ground’s rugby league record (26,746) set in their 2010 semi-final loss to Wests Tigers.
Cross-code rivals the Brumbies have held the stadium record of 28,753 since their victorious 2004 Super 12 final.
“It’s pretty exciting if anything – not daunting,” Bateman said on Tuesday.
“I’m not nervous. A home crowd, they’ll be behind us so there’ll be plenty of support.
“I’m pretty pumped up for it, actually.”
Bateman’s confidence is palpable across Raiders HQ, following the club’s run of 10 wins to secure second spot on the ladder and a home final.
Winger Jordan Rapana said the expected crowd would have a “massive impact” on the team, who he believes have been feeding off the support.
“Our last home game against Parramatta, they eventually got us over the line, so having a big crowd supporting us will mean a lot,” he said.
Hooker Josh Hodgson will be among those experiencing NRL finals footy for the first time, after just two seasons in Australia.
But the star rake is confident the outside pressure or hype about the Raiders’ title chances won’t overwhelm him or his younger teammates including Bateman.
“I think they’ll be absolutely fine,” he said.
“They’ve got great guys around them and they know all they have to do is their job.
“It doesn’t matter what game it is, whether you’re playing for nothing or to win a comp, you’ve just got to do your own job every week and be consistent at doing that.”