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Signed, sealed, delivered: Sebastian Kris’ journey back to the NRL

While driving a van around Canberra delivering packages at the height of a global pandemic, Sebastian Kris had an idea. What if there was a way to keep himself fit and ready for a potential return to the Raiders while working in a job that involves a lot of sitting and a lot of driving?

Having made his NRL debut in 2019, Kris made the difficult decision to step away from the game heading into the 2020 season and worked as a courier in the south of Canberra – a job which he credits for helping him mature but also his improved fitness.

“I like to think that’s where a lot of my fitness started, running parcel from house to house,” Kris said. “It was simple, it was money in the bank, and I think I needed that just to restart.”

Away from the game and in the workforce as a courier, Kris’ competitive edge came to the fore.

“I was sprinting between deliveries,” Kris said. “It was out of the van, to the door, back to the van, drive up 10 or 20 metres, next house, do it again.

“I was known as one of the fastest delivering couriers out there. I was just trying to keep that record. I don’t even know why, I was just very competitive within that job as well.”

As the year went on, Kris decided he was ready to give rugby league another shot but he took the first steps quietly.

“I didn’t even tell anyone else, not even any of my family,” Kris said. “I just thought I would start training after I finish work and go to the gym with one of my close mates Travis.

“I didn’t even tell him either. I just decided by myself.”

As the year went on, Kris’ delivery times also improved.

“The quicker you finished that job, the more time you had off in the afternoon and I was just looking forward to training,” Kris said. “I was just running laps around the oval just down from my house, and I was loving it.”

Eventually, Kris told his parents about his decision and then spoke to the Raiders about coming back to training with the club’s Under 21 NSW Cup players.

As the NRL players started to return to training, Kris linked up the NRL squad on a train and trial deal and continued to impress teammates and coaching staff alike.

“I was pretty happy with my performance during pre-season, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been before and stronger as well,” Kris said. “I was back three weeks before the young boys were back for NRL pre-season, and I do believe it gave me that little bit of an edge over a couple of the other boys.”

When Kris was named in Ricky Stuart’s side for round one against the Wests Tigers, it was a breakthrough moment for the young centre.

“Having a year out of the game, I wanted to look at this as a fresh start,” Kris said.

For me, it’s another debut.

Sebastian Kris

Kris remembers his debut for the Raiders fondly as he came off the bench against South Sydney at GIO Stadium and it’s a memory that brings the local junior plenty of joy.

Sebastian Kris Jersey Presentation

“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Kris said. “It went so fast. I know it was only a few minutes, but it felt like half a minute it went that quick.

“Sticky [Ricky Stuart] pulled me up and said ‘Go in at lock. Push up, try and get the ball and try and get over the line’. I just did that, tried to go for it and I’ve never felt better.”

Kris went on to play a further three games that season and managed to score three tries in the process. However, he made the difficult decision to walk away from the game before the beginning of the 2020 pre-season.

“I just didn’t really feel normal within myself,” Kris explained. “I kind of lost myself mentally. I just knew I needed to take a step back from everything and revaluate my mindset.”

As the 2021 season continued to draw closer, Kris got a taste of being in a match environment once again when he started for the Raiders in the NRL trial match against the Roosters.

Now, with his “second debut” looming, Kris feels comfortable within himself and believes playing in the NRL and particularly for the Raiders is something he wants to do.

“I know what I want to do now, I want to play footy.,” Kris said. “I’ve got that hunger and desire back that I used to have.

“Having that time off really showed me that it was something I really did want to do. Not just because I had to, or because everyone said I would as I was coming through school and growing up.”

The desire and hunger to play has changed Kris’ dietary habits but the young centre is making sure it’s not just his body that’s healthy.

“I guess I’m just growing into myself, maturing as well - especially in the mind,” Kris said. “I’ve cut out a lot of the bad habits like sugar and fast foods. I just want to be healthier - physically and mentally.”

Another thing that Kris has found helpful has been the support of head coach Ricky Stuart.

“He’s been so supportive,” Kris said. “I grew up playing against his son Jackson, so we’ve been quite close throughout my late childhood and early teenage years.

I look up to him as another father figure and he’s really taken me under the wing and given me a lot of support. I’m thankful for the opportunity he’s given me as well.

Sebastian Kris

With the prospect of running out onto GIO Stadium with a loud Viking Clap tantalisingly close, Sebastian isn’t getting ahead of himself.

“I wish it was Sunday already,” Kris said. “I’m very keen for it but I just don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’ll just do what I’ve been training to do and back myself.

“I’ve always looked up to the Raiders growing up here in Canberra. They’ve been my favourite team for many, many years now. To be able to put that jersey on myself is something for me and I’ll take that pride. I’m very proud of it.”