Wallaby-in-waiting Petaia signs on for four more years

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Jordan Petaia has just re-committed to Australian rugby and the Queensland Reds through to 2022 but after a cursory glance at his family tree, one might conclude his pedigree is just as strong in AFL.

Petaia inked the four-year deal while on this year's Spring Tour and said he never considered entertaining any other destinations.

“I was always thinking about staying in rugby, keep trying to get as far as I can,” he said.

“I’m still pretty young so staying with Queensland and Australia, I’m pretty fortunate to stay in my hometown and not have to travel away from family, that was a big part of staying in Queensland and Australian rugby.”

Given his immense talent, the spotlight will only increase on Petaia over the next four years and he believes Brad Thorn’s Queensland is the best place for him to flourish.

“My parents and me are a big fan of Brad Thorn and his coaching, and his discipline towards rugby,” he said.

“That was probably a big factor there, playing under him.

"And moving forward, developing as a player, it’s probably best suited having a good coach, if I stay there I’ll probably develop my game.”

Petaia grew up playing rugby league before switching to rugby at high school, but it’s an AFL pedigree that stretches the farthest back on the teenager's family tree.

Petaia’s maternal grandfather Ray Lalor was a half-forward/rover who played six games and kicked two goals for Essendon in the then-VFL in 1956 as a 19-year-old.

Ray Lalor was an Essendon forward in 1956. Photo: Supplied“My mum's dad played a few games for Essendon back in the day, that is what I heard from my mum,” he told reporters.

“My mum's side were all footy players, cricket players growing up in Victoria.”

The 18-year-old said there was often some banter about him giving Aussie Rules a crack when he visited his Victorian relatives but he’d always been focused on the rugby codes.

“Yeah, always a few jokes cracked over at family dinners they are always saying 'give footy a go'. My little brother played for a bit at primary school,” he said.

“I don't kick an AFL ball too much but I've got an alright shoe.”

Rugby has clearly been the right move for Petaia, who came agonisingly close to making his debut against Italy last weekend before a hamstring niggle ruled him out in the first session after he was named.

He would have been the third youngest Wallabies debutant in history.

He barely had time to tell his family that he was going to debut before he was ruled out of the match.

"I let my parents know, but I also let them know I hurt my hammy at the session and was waiting to see the scans first,” he said.

“I told them it's not looking too good but I was a possible chance. But everyone that found out that I was not playing through the media.”

“I tried not to dwell on it too much, the first couple of days I was pretty gutted, thinking about it before bed, after bed,” he said.

“It was just a waste of energy thinking about that so I started to forget about it and move on.

“I did it at a session at training just after I found out [I had been selected].

“I just stopped running, pulled out of training, I was hoping it was a day injury, just a tweak.

“But I got the scans back and it was a little tear, so obviously I wasn’t too happy.”

Jordan Petaia has re-signed with Australian rugby until 2022. Photo: Getty ImagesPetaia’s journey into the Wallabies fold this year has been a whirlwind one and it won’t be until next week that he might have a chance to finally breathe out and reflect on his 2018, though his only holiday will likely be a family Christmas in Melbourne.

While he missed his debut opportunity last week, he is an outside chance of a berth against England and a near certainty to find his way into the Test fold again in the coming years, highly rated by those in the state and national arenas.

The hype around him clearly hasn't gone to Petaia's head - asked whether he was ready to shoulder the weight of the Wallabies’ fortunes as the “next big thing” in Australian rugby, Petaia drop-punted the answer straight back over the man on the mark.

"I wouldn't say that I am the next thing to carry Australian rugby but if I get the opportunity to play I will do the best for my team and do whatever I can to help the team win,” he said.

 The Wallabies take on England at Twickenham on Saturday November 24, kicking off at 3pm local, 2am AEDT, LIVE on beIN Sports and SBS.