No stranger to adversity after his family traversed difficult terrain while fleeing war-torn Afghanistan for Pakistan as refugees, Omar Slaimankhel also found the familiar surroundings of the football field a challenging life experience when he made his NRL debut on Saturday night.
The 20-year-old described his selection on Manu Vatuvei's wing for the clash with Cronulla at Toyota Stadium as a "dream come true" but there was still a nightmarish quality to his elevation from the under-20s squad.
His first ball carry culminated in a dominant tackle and in the sixth minute an attempt to run the ball out of defence had even worse consequences when Ben Pomeroy scored on Slaimankhel's flank after the rookie lost possession when belted by his marker Isaac Gordon.
That unforced error ensured he would be regularly targeted by the Sharks, but his confidence grew as he successfully handled two Todd Carney grubber kicks to the in-goal.
Later he dropped a ropey Shaun Johnston pass when the line beckoned when the Warriors led 19-8 with 12 minutes left, though the halfback claimed responsibility for that chance going begging before the Sharks stormed home.
A 20-19 loss wasn't the ideal start to a first-grade career that is likely to be fleeting given Vatuvei should have recovered from a knee injury by the time North Queensland take to Mt Smart on July 1, but Slaimankhel still savoured virtually every moment.
"Dropping the ball and them scoring was probably the worst start I could think of," he said.
But team-mates were quick to sympathise after his gaffe, a show of support that lifted his spirits - and game.
"It was pretty tough out there but having the boys tipping me on, I sort of got back into it."
A specialist fullback who has scored 45 tries in as many games for the junior Warriors, Slaimankhel learnt on Friday he would be playing the main game and not the curtain-raiser. "The good thing about it is it was kind of last minute so I didn't have the whole week to be nervous about it."
He just told his parent Iqbal and Marium the good news and jumped on the plane. "It was good I didn't have my family put pressure on me all week," he said.
Considering the ramifications of his lost possession it was no surprise Slaimankhel identified defensive intensity as a big difference between the under-20s and first grade.
"It was," he said, "much harder - it's more physical."
Warriors coach Brian McClennan praised Slaimankhel's character and resilience after his initial setback and said he would be better for the experience.
"It's been a dream come true," Slaimankhel said, as his despondent team-mates trudged from the dressing shed. "I've always wanted to play for the Warriors."
How many more games he plays for the club is debatable.
He is off contract at the end of the year and with Kevin Locke and Glen Fisiiahi ahead of him in the fullback's pecking order, moving to another club is a consideration.