PANTHER PRIMED: Daine ready for big debut at Perth NRL Nines
NRL :After three years starring for the Penrith Panthers lower grade sides, Lower Clarence Magpies junior Daine Laurie’s first NRL opportunity has finally arrived.
The 20-year-old versatile back will pull on the Penrith kit with pride when he lines up for his first senior appearance in the NRL Nines in Perth on Friday.
As soon as the small-sided format of the game was announced to be making its return, Laurie was hellbent on finding his way into the 18-man squad.
“I set myself the goal to play in the nines when I heard it was coming back last year and I’ve been lucky enough to get a look in for it,” Laurie said.
Laurie’s performances in training had put him on senior coach Ivan Cleary’s radar and as soon as he knew he was in with a chance, he wasn’t going to let it slip.
“Ivan had a chat to me in December and said ‘if you keep playing well I’ll be looking to put you in the 9s’, so I just put my head down and trained as hard as I could,” he said.
“He gave me the tap on the shoulder the other day and said ‘you’re in mate’. That was some pretty good news to hear.
“It’ll be awesome playing with the likes of Nathan Cleary and the other big names I’ve looked up to since I got here. It’s a huge opportunity that I’m really excited for.”
Laurie impressed with the Panthers Jersey Flegg side last season, taking out player of the year as he almost took the side to a grand final.
The utility man has played with and against some of the top prospects of the game but he is looking forward to sharing the field with some of the biggest NRL stars in Perth.
“It’ll be awesome to go up against the 2019 premiers, the Roosters. They should have a good side I reckon,” he said.
“I’ve heard Kurt Gidley could be returning for Newcastle. He’s a legend of the game so to be able to play guys like him and Kalyn Ponga is just unreal. I look up to Ponga as well so I’m just really excited for it.”
Before playing in front of a bumper crowd at Perth’s Optus Stadium, Laurie said he was definitely expecting to feel some pressure but he said he was keen to put on a good show for his family.
“The nerves will start kicking in when I’m over there and ready to run out. I’m not so nervous now but when I’m there the butterflies will be kicking in for sure,” he said.
“My dad, my manager Dallas Waters, my uncle and his little boy will be over there with me so it will be special to run out there in front of my family.
“There will be heaps of family watching on TV as well so I’m excited for it. I’ll have to put in a good performance for them”
Both Waters and Penrith recruitment manager Jim Jones said they could see big things for Laurie.
“He’s a really talented player and he’s hungry to break his way into the NRL side. He’s been training with the first team and could be in for a big year,” Waters said.
Jones said on the Panthers website: “Daine is blessed with natural ability, reads the game well and has a knack of finding the try line.”
Recently extending his stay with the Panthers, Laurie trains daily with the first team and has found a strong bond with players.
“Last year I re-signed a development contract for two years. I’ve been training with the NRL boys full-time and I’m loving it. I’m living the dream,” he said.
“I’m really close with Brent Naden. You’ll see me around him the most but I’m starting to gel with all the senior players now.”
After three years in the bustling city of Sydney, Laurie is finally feeling at home.
“I used to get pretty homesick when I first moved here but I don't really get that any more. I’m feeling at home in Sydney,” he said.
“I’ve made friends with the boys at the club but I’ve got quite a few mates down here now. I really enjoy it here.”
Laurie hopes to use the NRL Nines as a springboard to a potential first team debut in 2020.
“That’s always going to be the goal, to get a debut. I’ll just keep training hard and hopefully it comes my way. When it does, I’ll be ready,” he said.
“I’m 21 this year so I’ll be playing NSW Cup. I’m really excited to start the year. It’s been a long pre-season so I can’t wait to start playing footy again,” he said.
“We’ll see what the year brings.”
Laurie’s first game at the NRL Nines in Perth will be against the Sydney Roosters at 4.40pm AEDT on Friday before he takes on the Newcastle Knights at 1.30pm AEDT on Saturday ahead of finals on Saturday night. All games live on Fox League and Kayo Sports.