In my shoes: Ryley Jacks
There’s no way I thought I would debut in Round 1.
I was thinking maybe I was a chance around Origin time or if there were injuries throughout the year.
There was always the thought that with Blake Green leaving there was always potentially a spot there as a five-eighth.
To get the call up was unreal.
I finally got my opportunity – now I don’t want to let it go.
I was feeling much better than I thought I would be during the week leading into my debut.
I thought I would be really nervous but I didn’t get nervous until actually running out onto the field.
It all hit me then – I was almost shaking.
Once I got into the game it was all good.
It helped that Cooper was my roommate. That was really good.
My parents and my nan came down to Sydney.
Those three have always watched pretty much every game I’ve played.
Seeing them there in the pouring rain at Belmore, they weren’t going to miss that. You couldn’t find worse conditions to watch a game! But they didn’t move – they loved it.
I don’t normally get emotional but I was pretty emotional after the game. They were almost tearing up.
You always just think about the journey to get there and I think mine was longer than others to debut at the age of 24.
It was a lot of hard work.
I started playing when I was six.
I went to school at St Laurence’s, the same school Cooper went to in South Brisbane.
Rugby league was always the main sport for me. I had two older brothers, we always used to play footy in the backyard.
I played heaps of other sports – I was really into my cricket, I played that all the way through school and the same with rugby union.
But as soon as I finished school I just concentrated on rugby league.
That’s when I got signed by the Roosters with their U20s.
It was good there. I played two years with the U20s then spent a year with the full time NRL squad playing reserve grade footy with the Newtown Jets.
After my first year full time with the Roosters I didn’t get offered another contract so I went back home to Brisbane and continued my trade in carpentry.
They were pretty tough those years after the Roosters let me go. I went back to the Queensland Cup, would work all day and then drive to training.
For two years I drove down to Burleigh from Brisbane to train at night after work which took about an hour each way.
It got to the end of my second year at Burleigh and they said they didn’t want me.
That was probably the worst I had felt, I was at the lowest point then – a Queensland Cup side didn’t even want me.
I was a little worried about not even getting a Queensland Cup team for the next season.
Trigger (Craig Ingebrigtsen) then called me and said there was an opportunity with the Sunshine Coast.
Whilst at the Falcons I still did the long, daily commute from Brisbane. I’d finish work and go straight up there and then get home at 10:00pm most nights. You’re then back up at 5:30am the next morning to go to work.
They were tough those three years but I always thought I’d get another opportunity in an NRL system.
Nothing compares to this pre-season in Melbourne.
The first day we came in we thought it would just be an introduction day but we were out on the field running fitness drills.
I knew from then on it would be the toughest thing I’ve done but I was ready for it at 24.
I think the Queensland Cup helped me a lot, especially as a halve.
I wouldn’t change anything now. Those three to four years I had in reserve grade have got me ready for NRL footy, especially with the physicality.
Now I’ve got the taste for it, I don’t want to give up my spot.
All that driving to training… It was all worth it.