Rising rugby league young gun Jai Doolan is off to Sydney in 2017, having penned a three-year contract with the Wests Tigers.
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The 17 year old who has lived in Cowra all his life needed just ten minutes playing at his favoured centre position to impress in his trial in front of club representatives.
He will also be joining their SG Ball squad this season while also completing his HSC at Patrician Brothers, Blacktown after spending years 7-11 at Cowra High. A Tigers fan himself, Doolan has the luxury to represent his preferred team as a junior.
The young centre played for the Cowra Magpies and the Western Rams and could be set to follow in the footsteps of former Cowra Magpies player, Shannon Boyd, who made his Australian debut last year following a strong season with the Canberra Raiders.
Jai says that he’s been compared to Sydney Roosters rookie and fellow Indigenous athlete Latrell Mitchell and that “people say I play like Greg” who he later confirms to be one of the game’s most destructive players and his older cousin, Greg Inglis.
Doolan talks me through his trial at the Tigers, “The first game I played fullback and then they told me to play centre in the second game and I played for 10 minutes and they called me up to (the grandstand where they watch from) and they said ‘we want you in our team, we wanted you when you were younger’” (Tigers wanted Jai when he was 15 but he was too young to leave his family).
Despite the dream come true, the Cowra talent says that “being away from my family and friends, missing my hometown” will be one of the biggest challenges he’ll face as he strives to achieve success in the Tigers’ youth system.
However he will be staying with his grandfather while he is in Sydney as he chases his ambitions.
Under his three-year contract, Doolan will be spending his first year in the Under-18s SG Ball squad before transitioning into the Under 20s competition, formerly known as the Holden Cup.
In what is sure to be a talented pool of youth to welcome Jai in the 18s squad, he’s keeping a level head about how he can focus on his game in order to stick out ahead of his teammates.
“(I can) get in there more, call for the ball, (create strong) communication and don’t think too much about what you’re doing, just think you, play you.”
Already showing maturity and humbleness beyond his years, Doolan credits his parents for all his hard work and teaching him positive life lessons to follow as well as friend/manager Glen Moriarty who he credits for “all the help and support, I wouldn’t be here without him.”
“(Mum and Dad) showed me the right thing to do in life,” Doolan added.
“They knew how much I wanted footy, they took me to trial and I trained hard to keep going until I finally made it.
“All that hard work pays off, I’m actually doing what I love and want to do.”
Balmain didn’t feature in SG Ball’s finals during 2016.
Penrith defeated Illawarra Steelers in the decider 25-10.
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