Man Mountain Shannon Boyd concedes that his NRL debut has come sooner than expected due to the injuries to David Shillington and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs however Coach Ricky Stuart and his team mates have made it clear that the 21 year old has made his own luck after a brilliant pre-season.
Boyd has long been regarded as a player of immense promise by the Raiders. After starring for the Raiders’ NYC side in 2011-12, Boyd experienced his first taste of senior rugby league playing with Mounties last year in the NSW Cup.
The Cowra Magpies junior performed well in the NSW Cup however there still needed to be a few minor adjustments in regards to his professionalism for the charismatically rough-around-the-edges country boy to fully realise his enormous potential.
After a heart to heart with Stuart towards the end of last year, Boyd has ticked all the boxes in regards to professionalism over the pre-season and has in fact lead the way in many fitness drills for the forwards, which is quite impressive when you consider that he weighs in at 122kg and 194cm.
“I asked him to commit to a number of things when I first got here and at the start I wasn’t sure if he was up to it but come Round 1, he’s basically picked himself in the team,” Stuart said. “At the start of the pre-season his body fat was way too high and he committed to challenging himself and I couldn’t have asked for anything more of him. He lost 9kg over the pre-season and achieved every challenge that we’ve put in front of him.”
The challenge that confronts Boyd this Saturday is that of Matt Scott and James Tamou, the incumbent Australian front-row pairing.
“It’s a challenge coming up against two world class props and it’s a challenge that will test him to see where he’s at,” Stuart said. “I believe that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough though. I wouldn’t put Shannon in there if I wasn’t confident in him. He’ll do a good job for us.”
Whilst he did not expect to be selected in Stuart’s Round 1 line-up, Boyd is sure to make the most of his opportunity and will no doubt leave his mark on the match.
“It’s very exciting for me to be able to make my debut this weekend,” Boyd said. “I’ve been training really hard this year and trying my best and I can’t wait to run out there for the Raiders.
“It’s definitely come a lot sooner than expected but I’ll be looking to make the most of this opportunity. I knew I had worked hard this pre-season but I still wasn’t expecting to get a look in for Round 1 but I guess that’s just the way it goes, sometimes you make your own luck.
“I can’t wait to get out there and have a crack and see what it’s like to play in the NRL. I want to get out there and make an impact but I also don’t want to blow out too quick. I know it will be a big test for myself coming up against Tamou and Scott but I’m going to give it my all.”
One player that Boyd can seek out for advice before he runs out is his close friend Paul Vaughan who debuted against the Cowboys last year.
“It’s always your dream from when you are young to play first grade and it will be even more special to do so with one of your close mates,” Vaughan said.
“It was a good test to come up against those two because they’re world class players obviously being Australian representatives. It will be a good test for him to see where he’s at and I’m confident that he will handle the challenge.
“I’m excited to be able to play with him in his NRL debut this weekend and I’m sure he’ll do well. He deserves to be here.”
The match against the North Queensland Cowboys kicks off on Saturday at 8:00pm at 1300SMILES Stadium.