Central Queensland talent a leader of the future
I could tell you that Jackson Weir will never play in the NRL and there would be a very good chance that I'd be right; but then you don't know Jackson Weir.
An excellent student, three years ago he was planning on dropping out of school to begin an electrical apprenticeship so he could join his stepdad in working at the mines in the tiny Central Queensland town of Tieri, 300 kilometres west of Rockhampton.
Jackson was a rugby league player of promise – and was told by his mother he could one day play professionally as most mothers do – but kids from Tieri don't play in the NRL and deep down Jackson knew it.
And then an invitation came from a boy in the Northern Gagais under-15s from Townsville who were short on numbers for the Murri Carnival in Ipswich in 2012 and Jackson's life changed forever.
Rugby league may not be the career path the impressive teenager's life takes, but it was the conduit to introduce him to new opportunities that in quick succession included a tour of Papua New Guinea with the Queensland Murri under-15s team, a scholarship facilitated by the Arthur Beetson Foundation to attend prestigious Ipswich Grammar and in 2016 will see him commence his law degree at the University of Southern Queensland.
"If I didn't go to the Murri carnival I wouldn't be in Ipswich, I wouldn't have played for the Jets, I wouldn't have got my job and I wouldn't have gone to uni and studied law," Jackson tells NRL.com ahead of joining the Queensland Murri under-15 team on their tour to Fiji on Wednesday in a mentoring capacity.
"If I stayed in Tieri I would have been one of 12 boys who graduated along with 10 girls where I graduated at an all boys school with 160-odd Grade 12s.
"When I first went to Ipswich Grammar I had to pick all my subjects and there was a list of like 35 subjects and I was used to having six. The only subjects we got to choose from in Tieri was either Home Ec or Man Arts, and obviously you choose Man Arts."
Brad Beetson, son of legendary Arthur Beetson, has seen first-hand Jackson's development over the past four years and said the success of boys such as Jackson is why the foundation was established in the first place.
"The foundation is a continuation of what Dad was all about," Beetson told NRL.com the day before the four-year anniversary of his father's passing.
"Rugby league was his great passion and so is Indigenous and country football and using rugby league for country and city Murri to improve themselves and become leaders as Indigenous people.
"In camp when we have got these guys it is a great opportunity to talk to them and vet who we think might be the right candidates to go on and find out what they really want to achieve and Jackson was a standout.
"When we first went to New Guinea we could see the drive that he had and the passion and he was pretty smart and a good talker.
"You can actually see him grow. Going from a 14-year-old to what he's become now we're obviously very proud of having an influence on his life and his family is very grateful as well."
Completing his final three years of schooling at Ipswich Grammar where he played rugby union for the school, Jackson maintained his passion for rugby league.
He played club football for Norths Tigers and in Cyril Connell Cup and Mal Meninga Cup representative teams for the Ipswich Jets, on occasions having to go to three separate training sessions in the space of one afternoon.
It's a rare type of dedication that saw him manage all of those commitments and still achieve all As in his final year of high school and one which he said was enhanced by his first tour with the Murri under-15s to Papua New Guinea in 2012.
"First time going to Papua New Guinea, that changed my life," Jackson said.
"Getting off the plane, they're so happy to see you but they've got nothing; it was a real eye-opener for me and all the boys.
"It dramatically changed my life so I take every opportunity I have because I know that I'm very fortunate to get those. People in less fortunate areas don't get anything like I've had so I'm going to take it and hopefully give back one day too."
The move to Ipswich wasn't easy and he admitted to struggling in his first year – so much so that he got his first 'C' midway through Grade 10.
But he knew that if he persevered and succeeded that he would be a greater inspiration to his three younger brothers back home than he ever could have been had he stayed in Tieri.
Raised by a single mother until the age of four, Jackson's sense of family is resolute and a major motivator. One of his 10-year-old twin brothers Koen has cerebral palsy and has to be driven more than 10 hours to Brisbane regularly for treatment.
As much as it hurts him to be away, Jackson knows where he can do the greater good.
"At the start I thought I couldn't teach my brothers anything because I wasn't there but them watching me achieve things down here they can see that they can do anything. That they can be like their big brother and do those things," he said.
"When Koen has an appointment in Brisbane he has to take four days off school. He's a really smart kid but he was falling behind for those sorts of reasons.
"The family are now thinking about moving down for not only Koen but also Lane and Kenneth because of what I've been able to achieve and to give my younger brothers the same opportunities."
And all from an invitation to play rugby league.