Local league flier swoops on NRL opportunity
RUGBY LEAGUE: From Lower Clarence to the foot of the mountains, Magpies' boom fullback Daine Laurie has scaled the heights to earn a two-year contract with the Penrith Panthers Under-20s Holden Cup side.
Laurie, who also spent time under the tutelage of NRL development officer Warwick Brown at the Grafton Ghosts during his junior career, will set sail for Penrith early next month as he starts pre-season with the most dominant Holden Cup outfit in recent years.
While the Panthers stare down the barrel of back-to-back Holden Cup premierships, Laurie is back in his hometown on the Clarence River sorting through his life, ready to pack it into boxes for the move.
But the nerves have not set in yet for the Maclean High student with his father Dion Donnelly admitting his son is a "pretty laid back sort of customer" when it comes to things like this.
"He just moves with the flow of it all, he just takes everything in his stride," Donnelly said. "Honestly, we are all just so happy for Daine, it can't get much better than this.
"I could not be any prouder as a father. Now we just have to wait to see how he fits in down there and whether he can stick it out."
Laurie will be continuing a bit of a family legacy at the Panthers with his uncle Shaun Laurie playing for the Panthers along with namesake relative Daine, who played for the Penrith side after moving across from the Wests Tigers.
The schoolboy got a one-on-one interview with Phil Gould after the Panthers flew him down to check out the facilities at the Panthers Academy at Pepper Stadium.
Gould had been reportedly impressed with a highlights video that was circling social media for the latter half of the 2016 season.
According to coach Darrin Heron, who also got contracted to the Panthers in the late 1980s, the move is nothing but positive for the lethal fullback who has come of age in recent seasons.
"It couldn't please me any more to see Daine off to the Panthers," Herron said.
"All the work he has put in from his junior football days up until now, there is not a kid more worthy of this opportunity.
"Sometimes he can be out there up to two and three hours after training has finished just continuing to make himself better."
Herron praised the efforts of Laurie's junior coaches in Geoff Foster and Brown and said they added a lot to the young fullback's development over the years.
"He would have to be the most outstanding player to have played this year along with halfback Vinnie Williams.
"Doing that from fullback is not an easy task either. Sometimes you get caught between a rock and a hard place at fullback but he made the right decision every time. Some of the tackles he made this season were just unbelievable."
The Clarence Valley league prodigy was scouted by several league clubs and despite his mum being devoted to the Panthers already she was happy to let her son make the decision on his own.
Laurie is expected to travel to Penrith before the start of the next school term and will finish his schooling, including his HSC year, next year at Patrician Brothers, Blacktown - a noted rugby league school.