Debutant Bulldogs halfback Matt Frawley says he surprised himself with how at-ease he was before his NRL debut and credits a close off-field bond with halves partner Josh Reynolds for helping him fit in.
Frawley will actually move in with Reynolds soon in something of an odd-couple moment, with Reynolds also crediting the former Raiders NYC star for settling him down at key moments in a tense 10-7 win over Brisbane at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.
"I surprised myself on how calm I was. I thought I was going to be pretty nervous going into it but I just tried not to focus on all the outside stuff," Frawley said
"I tried to just focus on my job and enjoy the moment. I've been working so hard to get here and if I went out there and thought about it too much I wouldn't have been able to play well so I tried to really enjoy it, narrow my focus and I thought I did that."
He described the night as a "dream come true" with his father flying back early from a business trip to China to be there for the special moment.
"I've worked pretty hard to get here and I thought it was a bit of a reward for effort for all the years I've put into it," he said.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler heaped plenty of praise on the 22-year-old after the game and Reynolds shared his coach's view.
"'Frawls' was great for me, honestly," Reynolds said.
"For his first game it was like he'd played a hundred. He was talking, I'd call something and he'd say 'nah let's settle it down' but honestly it was perfect because sometimes I'm in the game and I get a bit carried away but for someone to say that was good."
Frawley's controlled kicking game created three of the four line drop-outs his team created and was unlucky not to generate as many as three tries, with only handling and offside errors from his teammates bringing three pinpoint attacking kicks undone. He also kicked for a match-high 463 metres (the next best Bulldog was Josh Morris with 51) as he played virtually a lone kicking role for his team.
"That's sort of my style of play, I try to organise things and try to control things," Frawley said.
"I think it helped being a bit wet with the short kicking game especially, it pulls up in the in-goal a lot more.
"I thought it was a good start, there's a lot to work on and I probably missed a few opportunities that I'm a bit filthy about but first game it was good to get it under the belt and hopefully I'll have a few more."
The fact he has been in the system for two years edging closer to a fist grade debut helped him gel with the team.
"I've had two years now in NSW Cup and been 18th man every game this year and a couple of games last year so it's been something I've tried to achieve for a long time and I'm stoked it's finally happened for me," he said.
"It is [easy to direct the team, including Reynolds] just because we're all so close. Me and Josh have got a really good relationship off the field. I've been here for two years now and I feel part of it.
"I've played trials, I've played Nines with all the boys and obviously we train every day so I felt as though I belonged out there and I could slot in pretty easily.
"I'm actually moving in with Josh in a couple of weeks, he's building a duplex down in Caringbah so we're going to be roommates which will be interesting but we're good mates off the field.
"He was massive for me, all week he just backed me and said go out there and play your natural game. I thought we played pretty well together. We've got contrasting styles and I think that worked for us."