The Panthers fan plotting their demise
Clay Priest would have been cheering on the Panthers to eliminate the Raiders from the NRL semi-finals, but that was before he made the move to the nation's capital.
Priest is the latest casualty for Canberra ahead of their must-win with Penrith at GIO Stadium on Saturday night, suffering a broken leg at training on Wednesday. Star hooker Josh Hodgson (ankle) is also likely to watch on from the sidelines this weekend.
The Brothers Penrith junior is a long-time Penrith fan, recalling the Panthers' last premiership win in 2003 as an "unreal experience" during a time when names like 'Gowie' and 'Girds' were still running around.
Yet surprisingly, Priest has never had anything to do with the Panthers as a player. Simply put, he never thought he was good enough.
Priest successfully trialled for the Sea Eagles' under-20s team but denied himself the opportunity because the travel to and from Western Sydney became too much.
Fast-forward to this weekend and he would love nothing more than to beat his beloved Panthers team.
"I didn't think I was good enough. I just went about my own thing and played park footy with my mates. I was never a look in," Priest said.
"To be quite honest when you're not in that limelight with the Penrith rep teams, you don't strive or push for any type of career in rugby league. I just enjoyed playing footy with my mates."
Priest was plucked from obscurity to make his NRL debut in the Raiders' 60-6 win over the Wests Tigers in Round 8.
A late bloomer, Priest gave up work fixing powerlines and has been duly rewarded with 14 NRL games since by Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
Re-signed for a further two seasons in August, Priest will forever be indebted to Mounties coach Steve Antonelli for bringing him to the Raiders' feeder club in 2014.
The 27-year-old's NRL debut capped off a year in which mature-aged rookies, including Newcastle's Nathan Ross, Rooster Eloni Vunakece and Rabbitoh Cody Walker, have made their mark.
Before his injury, Priest had impressed so much that he was keeping experienced Raiders trio Jeff Lima, Paul Vaughan and Shaun Fensom out of first grade.
"They are the blokes I look up to as a player as far as their experience goes," Priest said of the relegated trio.
"I never thought I'd get a start at the Raiders. But since I've received the call up everything has become a mystery, one that I'm just running with."
Game on. Data off.
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