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|2008, June; Daine Laurie|
|Topic Started: Nov 15 2008, 01:03 PM (186 Views)|
|galahs||Nov 15 2008, 01:03 PM Post #1|
State of Origin
One giant leap
June 29, 2008
Daine Laurie has taken some wrong turns in life but is making good time on the road to redemption, writes Andrew Webster.
This is a story Tim Sheens didn't want written. "People know I won't get carried away," he says. "I've seen too many fail." But this is a story that needs to be told. It's a reminder that a man can assume control of his future again, no matter what he might have done in his past.
Daine Laurie, all 198cm and 112kg of him, threw himself into his first-grade debut for the Wests Tigers against Brisbane last round and those who witnessed it that night are still talking about it. "I thought it was Wendell Sailor," drawled Broncos coach Wayne Bennett after the match. "We played him in the second row in about 1993. He [Sailor] didn't have the white boots on. That was the only difference."
Those 39 minutes in the middle of Suncorp Stadium must have seemed an eternity away from last year, when Laurie was sitting in a detention centre of the NSW North Coast as his first child, Marliiya, came into the world.
"I'm the first to admit I've made a lot of mistakes in my life," he says. "I regret them, I've paid my dues, but now my challenge is to do something positive. The birth of my child brought a lot of that home to me and so have the Wests Tigers."
It's not important to dwell on why Laurie was there, in a low-security facility for one error of judgement - mainly because of alcohol - too many. Let's just say he doesn't have too many hands to play. What matters here is he's making the most of the one he's been given.
During the week, as he's been fitted for the club suit and shoes found for his massive feet, the smile has been hard to remove from his face. Because the road is still tough. The 23-year-old's young family still lives on the North Coast and, each day, he leaves his hostel in Granville, catches the train and walks to training at Concord Oval because his driver's licence is suspended.
"And he's never missed a session," Sheens attests. "For most guys, that would be too hard. They'd have gone home. That shows attitude. Most coaches will tell you it's the first thing you go looking for."
That's what they saw in Laurie when he trialled for Western Suburbs, who play in the NSW Cup, at the start of the year and decided to take the risk. "He was just a mess," recalls Wests coach Leo Epifania. "He was very green, didn't know where to stand. But when he ran the ball, he just doesn't stop at the line. He KO'd a player against North Sydney who didn't get up. We decided to give him a go then."
That intimidation was evident against the Broncos, for all to see. Watch the tape and there's an incident just before half-time when Corey Parker cocks a fist, takes a look and puts the gun back in its holster. Karmichael Hunt might be fearless but he's no fool, sizing up Laurie on the other side of the ruck at one point then deciding to defend elsewhere.
"He's one of those kids you don't want to run into you," says Sheens, before laughing. "Anything's likely to hit you. Heads. Shoulders. Knees ... But he's still very raw."
Newcastle recruitment manager Keith Onslow first identified Laurie, who has an Aboriginal mother and African father, and brought him from Yamba to the Northern Eagles. Speed and size is a lethal combination. Then the joint-venture collapsed.
"He was one of those kids you always hoped would crack it," Onslow says. "When I saw him playing last Friday night [against the Broncos] I just laughed. Good on him."
Arthur Beetson's eyeballs popped out when he saw him playing at the Koori Knockout at Redfern a few years ago but Laurie never made it to the Roosters' trials.
Sheens's interest has gradually piqued with every match he's seen. An injury crisis in the Tigers front row, and a heavy defeat against Parramatta, prompted him to add him to his bench for the match against the Broncos. "Something inside me kept saying, 'Give him an opportunity'," the coach says.
With his girlfriend and child in the stands, Laurie stepped onto Suncorp Stadium an eternity away from his past.
A sign in the Tigers gym at Concord Oval reads: "THERE ARE LOTS OF EXIT DOORS IN PRO FOOTY". Understandably, Sheens remains cautious.
"The lad doesn't have too many fallbacks," he says. "I draw a line in the sand with every player. It doesn't matter who they are or what they've done. Everyone's different. But he's just got to make sure he does the right thing by this club and this team."
Laurie's journey continues this afternoon against the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval. Another step down the right path. "They're giving me a chance and I'm now at a stage where I can appreciate what that means," Laurie says. "I want to show other kids that you can turn things around. I don't want to let anyone down again."
Source: The Sun-Herald
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