Laurie flies into Origin selection
RUGBY LEAGUE: While he spent most of his childhood supporting the maroon of Queensland, former Lower Clarence Magpies flying teenager Daine Laurie might need to change allegiances after being selected in the New South Wales under-18 State of Origin squad.
After only his first season playing rugby league in Sydney, Origin selectors quickly took to the 17-year-old's ball-playing ability at fullback for the Penrith Panthers SG Ball Cup side.
Laurie made a major impact for the Panthers this season, scoring five tries in nine games and throwing the last pass for countless others, as the Penrith side finished equal top of the SG Ball Cup ladder.
Laurie got his first taste of finals football as well, but it was not the fairytale finish he was hoping for as the Panthers fell out of the running in straight matches.
With his side knocked out, Laurie chose to watch the Pacific Test matches rather than go to the SG Ball Cup final, where the NSW squad was announced for the first time. His teammates texted the young flyer with the news, but he wouldn't believe it until NSW Rugby League announced it on Facebook three days later.
"I have had to pinch myself a few times since I found out," he said.
"I still can't really believe I have made it. I definitely didn't believe the boys when they first told me, I thought it was a gee up.
"It would be awesome to play for New South Wales, I think I might cry if I get the opportunity to play."
Laurie was one of two Panthers stars named in the 24-man squad - along with Lindsay Smith - which will be cut to a final 17 players ahead of the Queensland clash which will act as a curtain raiser for the NRL State of Origin II game at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
It has not been an easy road for the Panthers star who has spent the past six months living away from home and family.
"Plenty of times I have thought about packing it all up and coming back home," he said. "If it wasn't for two teammates - Toby Westacott and Brad Gaut - I wouldn't have got through it. They are boys from the bush and in the same boat, and they have really supported me.
"But this selection makes all of it worth it. It is just awesome to be picked in the New South Wales squad.
"Everyone back home has been congratulating me heaps this week. I know mum was a bit emotional when I told her, and I reckon dad might have shed a few tears as well. They are both proud, and that is all I have ever aimed to do."
After only a year in the Sydney league scene, the boy from the bush hoped his selection for NSW could potentially inspire kids in the Clarence Valley to chase their dreams.
"Hopefully I do inspire a few of the young fellas back home," he said. "It would be great to get more kids coming down to Sydney and giving it a go. If I can do it, anyone can do it."