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You could forgive Canberra Raiders young-gun Jeremy Hawkins for not wanting to get too ahead of himself.

After being named to make his first grade debut back in Round 18 only to later be denied due to second-tier salary cap restrictions, the 21-year-old looked set to play out the remainder of the season in NSW Cup.

However with injuries further testing Canberra's depth, the Junior Kiwi was finally given the green light by the NRL to make his maiden appearance in the big time in Canberra's 22-12 win over Cronulla on Sunday.

Admirably, Hawkins didn't blame anyone for his false start – but he also didn't fully buy into Sunday's game until he finally stepped out onto Remondis Stadium.

"Those are the rules. I couldn't get my exemption through because we had others that were eligible but now I am just happy that I finally could get my debut," Hawkins told after the win.

"I didn't get my hopes up this week in case [something similar happened] but when I finally ran out there I was really excited.

"It has been a long time coming and I'm very happy to get out there and come up with the win."

Hawkins has been accustomed to a roadblock or two along the way to where he stands today. Like dealing with homesickness after leaving his New Zealand home near Wellington to cross the Tasman and link up with the Raiders after a deal with Melbourne feel through.

Chuck in the fact that he didn't run onto a rugby league field until he was 14 after his mother threw him into every sport possible – which luckily led to a path to the NRL – and you'll realise that Hawkins has come a long way.

"It was actually weird how I ended up playing rugby league. I was back in college and a fella called Josh Drysdale came up to me and asked if I wanted to come along and play a game. I ended up playing and from there I kicked on," Hawkins said.

"I was picked up at 15 where I was originally meant to go to the Melbourne Storm but that fell through with their salary cap scandal in 2010 and then Frank Endacott, my manager, got me onto the Raiders and I've just progressed up the ranks from there."

As for Hawkins moving away from the family home for the first time?

"Everyone has to move out of home at some point," Hawkins laughed. "I was at the age where I was getting ready to move out. I was maybe homesick for the first couple of months but then mum told me that it was my dream so just keep sticking to it."

Nothing could prepare young Hawkins for the demands of first-grade football though. Despite the insistence of his teammates that it was another big step-up, the rookie did admit that he underestimated the toughness of the NRL. 

"I thought it was going to be a lot slower... but it was 100 times quicker than what I expected so I was blowing early and throughout the game everybody was pushing me and telling me what to do and luckily I managed to get through it," Hawkins said.

"Everyone was just massive and I've come up a lot sorer than I thought I would after the game. I cramped up at halftime and that's never happened before."

While his body will continue to the develop to the demands and physicality of the NRL, Hawkins impressed enough with his 48 metres and 16 tackles to give the Green Machine faithful enough hope the young centre is the real deal moving forward.
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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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