Jai a Bronco in Blues clothing
Jai Whitbread's parents hail from out Tamworth way and he swears he is a blue through and through but there is one inescapable truth haunting the promising Broncos front-rower.
"I was actually born in Tugun. I don't like to tell many people that," Whitbread told NRL.com after helping to inflict a 26-0 thrashing of the Maroons in the under-18s Origin encounter on Wednesday night.
He'll start in the front row for the Broncos again in their Holden Cup clash with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday evening where he will be playing alongside Queensland under-18 reps Corey Allan, David Fauid, Gehamat Shibasaki, Gerome Burns and Patrick Carrigan rather than against them.
But if you think the 18-year-old could be lured away from his blue blood in years to come by Brisbane teammates then you haven't met a young man who juggles his football commitments with a degree in clinical exercise physiology at Queensland University of Technology and working at Bunning's and as a furniture removalist.
"Not after a win like that. It reiterates the passion that you have for your state. There's no way that's going to change me," explained Whitbread, who also represented the NSW under-16s two years ago.
"Patty Carrigan was in the middle there with me so I was giving him a bit but other than that we leave the on-field stuff when you're off the field.
"I grew up just on the New South Wales side of the border, did all my schooling in NSW, played junior stuff for South Tweed and rep for Group 18 in the Country Rugby League comp."
The next step for Whitbread will be to earn selection in the New South Wales under-20s team in the next couple of years and beyond that is the possibility of joining a list of just six Brisbane Broncos (Michael De Vere, Chris Johns, Glenn Lazarus, Terry Matterson, Luke Priddis and Peter Wallace) to have represented the Blues in the Origin arena.
Previously contracted to the Gold Coast Titans, the Broncos were quick to pounce when Whitbread became available for the 2016 season and Holden Cup coach Craig Hodges has been wholly impressed by his on and off-field contributions.
"It's a big step to be an under-18 middle forward in this competition but at the moment he hasn't missed a beat and I'm really happy with him and happy for him," Hodges said.
"It's just such a physically demanding position and mentally requires a fair bit of strength as well. It's not easy to take a hit-up off a tap or off play one into a completely set defence, it requires a fair bit of mental strength to consistently do that job and that's why even at the NRL level front-rowers have historically matured a little bit later.
"What I like about him is that for such a young player he's such a consistent player. He's not a brilliant player that is going to blow teams to pieces and he doesn't come up with poor errors that are going to cost your team opportunities.
"He's very consistent, he's very safe, he's very secure in what he does, he knows what his role is and he prepares really well and gives himself every opportunity to perform his role to the best of his ability.
"From a coaching point of view they are some wonderful attributes for a player to have. You can do a lot with that.
"He's a credit to his family, he's a top quality young person and the fact that he is a top quality footballer is a bonus for us."
Whitbread's selection in the NSW under-18 team and a week in camp did mean that he missed three half-yearly exams at QUT.
While the impression of most 18-year-olds would be that they would do anything they could out of sitting exams, like his approach to rugby league Whitbread was ready to tackle them head on.
"I was ready for them and hoping to get them over and done with and then relax for a bit," he said.
"There's a deferred period the first couple of weeks back so I have to study a bit through the holidays which is unfortunate but these things happen."