Promising young Canberra Raiders back-rower Luke Bateman will always remember his first big taste of life in the NRL.
The 18-year-old travelled to Sydney early this morning to be the Club's nominated player to help showcase the jerseys to be worn by the 16 NRL clubs for the inaugural $A2.34 million Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines tournament at Eden Park on February 15-16.
Whilst there were some big names in Willie Mason, Anthony Watmough, Michael Ennis, Adam Reynolds and Robbie Farah in attendance, the well spoken Bateman more than held his own in mingling with the players and speaking to the media.
And when it was officially announced by NRL Head of Football, Todd Greenberg, that Brad Fittler would play for the Sydney Roosters in the Nines, Bateman couldn't hide his excitement. After all, it is not too often a youngster like Bateman gets to share the same stage with a legend like Fittler.
"To be here amongst some current legends of the game is just awesome. I'm in awe,'' Bateman said, proudly wearing Canberra's playing strip for the Nines tournament.
"Being here with Fittler is exciting. I watched him as a kid growing up in Queensland.To think I could be playing at the same venue and perhaps even against him is just an awesome feeling.
"Ricky Stuart still has to name his squad for the tournament but I know I'm in contention for a place. I'll just keep training hard and try to impress the coach. I really enjoyed training with the NRL squad prior to Christmas and learnt so much, especially from players like Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Shaun Fensom who have played a lot of NRL games. They took me under their wings and showed me new things.
"The Dick Smith Nines are going to be an incredible event. To play in front of 90,000 fans would be incredible. It is up to Ricky now but I love to be picked."
If enthusiasm counts for anything, one gets the feeling Bateman would make the most of his chance in the spotlight again.
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