Francis Cummins will be Super League's rookie boss in 2013 but the newly-appointed Bradford Bulls chief has been coaching for 20 years.
The former Great Britain winger, who turns 36 in December, enjoyed a distinguished playing career with Leeds but he had set his sights on becoming a coach even before he became the youngest-ever Challenge Cup finalist at the age of 17.
"I've coached since I was 16, with schools and other bits, my amateur club, so I knew what I wanted to do," Cummins said.
"I retired on my 29th birthday because I had the chance to work with Tony Smith and Brian McDermott (at Leeds).
"It was an opportunity for me to jump into the next bit of my life and become a coach.
"I had to take that opportunity and, when Brian went to Harlequins after six months, it catapulted me into the number two job."
Cummins was also right-hand man to Smith's successor at Headingley, Brian McClennan, before joining Mick Potter at Bradford two years ago.
The Rugby Football League identified him as one of the country's bright young coaching prospects when they sent him on a bursary to Australia to pick up tips from, among others, Tony Smith's older Brian, who lists Bradford among his host of top-flight clubs.
But Cummins also recognises the need to go outside the sport of rugby league to build his education and he has even picked the brains of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
"You need to speak to other people," he said. "I've got people who are in business I can go to and I speak to religious people.
"I went to see Alex Ferguson early on, in 2008, and it was amazing just to spend time there.
"It really backs up what you're about. I would always encourage any of my staff to go out and see other sports, talk to other people, that's where your real education is."
Despite being steeped in rugby league, going back to his roots with famous nursery club Dewsbury Celtic, there was a time earlier this year when Cummins thought he might have to look elsewhere to earn a living.
He was among 16 full-time staff made redundant by the administrators when the Bulls ran into deep financial difficulties and, after much discussion with his wife Katie, he decided to keep working unpaid alongside Potter.
Hoping initially that it would only be for a matter of weeks, Cummins admits times became tough when the crisis lasted for another three months.
"We've got three kids and, when you're thinking about how I'm going to earn some money, it's a real test of everything," he said.
"I've got to publicly thank my wife Katie for that because it wasn't easy but she didn't make it any harder.
"We made made a commitment to the players pretty early, initially thinking it might only be two or three weeks or maybe a month.
"It went on longer than that but we had made the decision to the players that, whenever the season finished, we'd be still there with them.
"Without being too crude, there's are times when you really have to make a decision. We have a mortgage to pay and either you say 'do we dip into what little savings we have or do I have to earn some money somewhere else?'.
"Having come straight from school as a full-time professional rugby league player and then a coach, there were not too many avenues open to me.
"We don't live a lavish lifestyle - there are no flashy cars - but I knew the little bit of savings we had could get me to the end of the year and then it was either get a job somewhere else or find a new career.
"I've got some friends who've been really good to me who gave me the chance to do some labouring and I wasn't far off doing it.
"I may have had to do a few paper rounds here and there if it had gone on any longer."