Petaia catches Cheika's eye

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

This time last year, Jordan Petaia was preparing for a 1st XV season with Brisbane State High.

Fast forward 12 months and he is preparing for a fourth straight start for the Reds, drawing the eyes of Wallabies coach Michael Cheika in the process.

"He looks very good," Cheika said.

"He's only a young guy, coming into the team, he's doing his job, he's finishing nicely etcetera and you certainly can't complain when you've got young fellas like that coming up.

"I think we're in good stead when it comes to those outside back positions for now and for the future."

While a Wallabies cap may still be a while off, Petaia admits his meteoric rise remains surreal.Petaia has made a strong start to his career in Queensland. Photo: Getty Images"My goal this year was just to play U20s," he told RUGBY.com.au.

"So to now be in this position - I just feel pretty blessed."

Petaia is a laidback customer off-field but on0field, his sole focus since making State High's 1st XV as a Year 11 student in 2016 has been turning a childhood dream - playing football professionally - into reality.

He credits his 1st XV coaches for affording him the chance to shine on Queensland schoolboy rugby's biggest stage but as a boy from Springwood who only started playing the 15-man game five years ago, Petaia's rise is testament to his dedication to the craft.

"I'd always wanted to play footy as a pro - ever since I was a kid," he said.

"It's always been at the back of my mind but it wasn't really until grade 11 where I thought it could become a reality.Petaia has X-factor with ball in hand. Photo: Getty Images"It is still surreal to think that I was playing schoolboy footy this time last year but I'm blessed to be here and can't thank all the coaches I've had enough for giving me the opportunity."

Watching Petaia, it's clear that the game comes naturally to him.

He showed as much in a stellar Queensland and Australian Schoolboy campaign last season, and he looks just as home under the bright lights of Super Rugby as he did playing against boys his own age.

He has quick feet, dodging oncoming defenders with ease, a sharp turn of foot and an astute rugby mind, always providing support for players who break the line.

His first Super Rugby try displayed all of those qualities, popping up in exactly the right spot as Taniela Tupou busted the Hurricanes line on Friday.Petaia is determined to make a starting spot his own this season. Photo: Getty ImagesPetaia credits Samu Kerevi and Chris Feauai-Sautia with accelerating his growth and developing his attacking arsenal, the pair taking the teen under their wing since his arrival at Ballymore.

"They've helped me a lot," Petaia said.

"Just talking to me about little things in my game, showing me a few tips and tricks - they've been great."

Now that he's had a significant taste of Super Rugby and the Reds have ruled out a Junior Wallabies campaign so he can continue his rookie season for Queensland, Petaia has one clear goal in mind.

"I just want to keep my starting spot," he said.

"I want to keep playing the best I can and do whatever I can to help the team win."

The Reds face the Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au radio. Buy tickets here.

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