The Indigenous Round match against his uncle Cody Walker’s South Sydney team has been circled on Daine Laurie’s calendar since the NRL draw was released so the Wests Tigers fullback has been determined to overcome a knee injury in time to play.
Laurie, who is a proud Bundjalung man, has been named in the Tigers No.1 jersey for Saturday night’s clash at Accor Stadium after recovering from a grade two MCL injury sustained just four weeks ago in the 23-22 defeat of the Rabbitohs.
It is a match Laurie never wanted to miss, with members of his and Walker’s extended family travelling down from the NSW north coast to watch them celebrate and honour their Indigenous culture together.
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“It is going to be very special, with all our family coming to support us. That is why I have been pushing really hard to get back,” Laurie said.
“It would mean heaps to me to play in this match and line up alongside my uncle. He is my idol and I look up to him."
Walker is 10 years older than Laurie but their families are close and they spent time together growing up.
The Rabbitohs superstar also helped Laurie make the transition to life in Sydney after he joined the Panthers while in his teens and finished school at Patrician Brothers College, Blacktown.
“It’s always a huge honour to play against a guy I have known since he was in nappies,” Walker said.
“He is my nephew and growing up we spent a lot of holidays at his parents’ house in Iluka. We used to go to Baryulgil, where his dad is from. He was a character as a kid. He used to make us laugh.
“It is a great time not only for us but also for our families. To be able to have a part of them on our jerseys and to be able to represent and honour our families, where we are from and what it means to be an Aboriginal man, is special."
Walker didn’t play his first NRL match until he was 26 years old after joining Souths in 2015 following stints with the Titans, Panthers and Storm.
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In comparison, Laurie debuted for Penrith in 2020 at just 20 years of age after moving from the Gold Coast in 2017 and winning the club’s Jersey Flegg player of the year award the following season.
He was the Wests Tigers player of the year last season.
“The way he is playing, especially last year in his first full year of first grade, was quite amazing to see,” Walker said.
“He is someone who has worked really hard to get to where he is; he moved away from family on the same sort of journey as me and has just impressed me that he didn’t give up on his dream to be an NRL footballer.
“He has always had the talent. We have all seen what he is capable of on the field; he is a livewire, he pops up on either side of the field and his kick returns are quite elusive.
“It was whether he was able to sacrifice living away from home, living away from parents, living away from family, and he has done that.”
However, Laurie said Walker had been a constant role model for him and someone he still regularly turns to for advice.
"We are as close as," Laurie said. "I ring him up all the time and every now I come to see him, to suss him out and all of that.
“I have looked up to him all my life. When he was at the Titans under 20s, he was my idol.
"He is a little boy from Casino and I am from Iluka, so it is pretty special to be playing in the big time together. This is what we have been dreaming of since we were little kids."