Aitken books his ticket to England
After a solid performance against reigning premiers South Sydney in the Charity Shield, young Dragons centre Euan Aitken was told by coach Paul McGregor he will be on the plane to Warrington to play the Wolves in two weeks time in the expanded World Club Challenge.
Aitken was still "buzzing" over the news of his selection when he talked to NRL.com, a stepping stone which takes the 19-year-old closer to his dream of debuting in the NRL.
Chosen to start in the annual fixture against the Rabbitohs, Aitken's selection saw fellow backs Charly Runciman, Peter Mata'utia, Eto Nabuli and Yaw Kiti Glymin all picked on the bench – a huge deal for the Pambula Bulldogs junior who has been publicly praised by his coach McGregor and teammate Benji Marshall.
"Mary dropped the bombshell before that I was going to be on the plane [to England]," Aitken revealed to NRL.com.
"He told me I had just booked myself a ticket so I'm definitely going through a good buzz. I'm still a bit shaky about it all though – I don't know if it's from the head knock I had or what – but it's definitely good."
"It's been my dream [to play in the NRL] since I was four, when I first started playing footy. It's been something I've been working for my whole life so these lead up games have and will been fun."
While McGregor remained coy over the makeup of his Round 1 team, he did offer that Aitken was "steady" against the Rabbitohs.
"I thought he did everything okay," McGregor said.
"Actually he did a little bit more than that – he got involved in the game, both in attack and defensively he was solid."
Striking up a highly effective partnership with Dylan Farrell on Saturday, Aitken's nervousness in his first official 13-on-13 first-grade game was quickly replaced with calmness.
Labeling the Charity Shield as a good experience, Aitken said he is now ready to jump up to the NRL much like his Junior Kangaroos teammates Clinton Gutherson, Valentine Holmes, Jake Mamo, Matthew Lodge and Cameron McInnes did last season.
"It was a quick game and pretty tough with the huge grind there over the course of the game. I felt real comfortable though," Aitken said.
"I was a little bit edgy at the start of the game but that was from the nerves. As the game went on, I was able to get a lot more comfortable so it was good to show how well I'm progressing and it's only going to get a lot better from here."
Aitken's next stop is certainly now the NRL.
While he doesn't believe he is beyond the Under 20s Holden Cup competition, Aitken wants to continue moving forward in his rugby league career.
"I feel that Holden Cup was a good learning curve last year but I think looking forward and how I want to develop, it's time to take the next step," Aitken said.
"I want to keep developing my game in, if it isn't NRL, then it is NSW Cup but I do want to start the season [in the NRL]. It will be a good thing to do. I'm just going to work hard for it and do my best."