“He’s not the next James Tedesco – he’s the first Charlie Staines”.
So said one of the 19-year-old’s army of former Forbes Magpies team-mates who had travelled from the central west town to watch Staines create NRL history by scoring four tries in his NRL debut for Penrith in their 56-24 thumping of Cronulla at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
Staines received a late call-up after Dean Whare succumbed to injury on Thursday. The rookie winger made the most of his opportunity by scoring in the 23rd, 44th, 73rd and 78th minutes, as well as setting up a try for Dylan Edwards.
In doing so he became the first player since Gold Coast’s Jordan Atkins in 2008 to score four tries on debut – a feat only six other players have achieved in the game’s 112-year history in Australia.
However, the best thing for Staines was having his family and friends on hand to witness him playing for the Panthers after graduating through the Western Rams development squad with boom five-eighth Matt Burton.
“It’s unreal that they all travelled up from Forbes,” Staines said.
“Mum and dad always drove me everywhere for footy, wherever I needed to go, and for them to be here tonight was amazing.”
His parents, Shayne and Lisa, and sister Ruby were among a group of 20 family and friends who had made the five-hour journey from Forbes to watch Staines play and they celebrated every try.
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"There would have been busloads if there was no COVID,” Shayne said.
"These are the boys he's grown up with, played with, drunk with, chased the girls with ...
“It was pretty emotional and raw. We're over the moon. In the end he might have been showing off.”
After being named the NSWRL’s Jersey Flegg player of the year last season, Staines was rewarded with a development contract by the Panthers which prevented him from playing NRL before June 30.
While fullback is his preferred position, Staines is happy to bide his time on the wing for now – although coach Ivan Cleary couldn’t guarantee he would keep his spot if Whare is fit next week.
“Knowing what that feels like now, I want to be doing that every week,” Staines said.
“I am just going to keep working hard at training and trying to get that wing spot if I can.
“I was a bit anxious going in because one of the boys got hurt and I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bit nervous and I just tried to stay calm.
“I liked Melbourne growing up – Billy Slater and those fellows – but I have got a lot of pride in this jersey and I am very grateful to be playing for this club.”
While he always appeared destined for the NRL, Staines also has an athletics background and his speed was on display when he sprinted down the touchline after scoring his first try before sending fullback Dylan Edwards racing away to score.
Staines has a hat-trick on debut
Asked who was the quickest player at the Panthers, he said: “I think I have got them covered”.
According to his mates, he would perform similar feats for the Forbes Magpies and scored four tries in a match "regularly".
"He once played in the under-18s grand final and got man-of-the-match, then backed up in first grade and won that grand final too," one said.
Scored four tries before?
"Regularly,'' said the mates.
"He once played in the under-18s grand final and a man of the match, then backed up in first grade and won that grand final."