They may be two of the most promising talents coming through Queensland’s Emerging Origin system; but Dalby Devils juniors Keanu Wright-Dunrobin and Xavier Va’a know there is plenty more work to do if they are to achieve their goals.
Despite being club-mates; the first time Va’a and Wright-Dunrobin played together was as schoolboys where they were part of the Queensland Under 12 side.
However, they have been playing together in junior representative programs ever since and credit their time with the Devils as a key component of their success.
“I think playing junior footy with Dalby Devils helped a lot with my discipline and challenging me to be mentally tough,” Va’a said.
The Devils are the junior club of Queensland Maroon and Brisbane Bronco Andrew McCullough and like the State of Origin hooker, Wright-Dunrobin and Xavier are currently linked with Brisbane Broncos (on a development basis).
The Dalby club is also where Queensland Under 20 and Newcastle Knights forward Beau Fermor – who was recently named Jersey Flegg Player of the Year for 2018 – learnt how to play the game.
“The inclusion of Andrew McCullough has really helped put Dalby Devils on the map,” Wright-Dunrobin said.
“We’ve had a lot of media attention since he made his Origin debut.
“People are obviously interested to look back at where he has come from, and where he played his junior footy.”
The pair have been a part of the Under 15 / Under 16 QAS Emerging Origin program for the past two years and were grateful to be involved in the recent camp held at Currimundi on the Sunshine Coast.
"To come back every year we’ve got to work hard for it, we’re not guaranteed a spot,” Wright-Dunrobin said.
Both players share the goal of making the final team selection for the Queensland Under 16 side this year and helping the state claim victory.
However even if they may not happen to reach that this season; both have already achieved so much in their young careers.
Wright-Dunrobin has been selected in the Queensland Murri Under 16 side that will play as the curtain-raiser for the Charity Shield game in Mudgee on March 2.
“It means a lot to be able to able to represent my culture and the Aboriginal community,” he said.
Last season, Va’a captained the Queensland Maroons Under 15 schoolboys team to victory at the National Championships which were held in Mackay.
“It was such an honour to be able to represent Queensland,” the St Mary’s student said.
“It was very challenging at first getting to know guys that I hadn’t played a lot of footy with before.
“We came together as one and went through the tournament undefeated, and we really showed that Queensland spirit.”
Showing a well-roundedness that is valuable for young aspiring athletes; Va’a is not only a talented young rugby league player; he is also a boxing talent on the rise.
So much so, he won Gold in 2017 at the Under 15 Queensland Championships.
“I won the Under 15 Super Heavyweight Queensland Championship in 2017 and hopefully I’m able to do the same again in 2019; and hopefully go on to win Nationals as well,” Va’a said.
The young front-rower credits his fitness and strength on game day to his boxing background.
“The elements of boxing have really helped with my fitness and training,” the NQ Cowboys fan said.
“I started boxing to assist with my fitness, and after watching a few fights I was hooked.”
Q and A corner – Who Is Your Favourite Maroons Player?
“Cooper Cronk, what he did in the grand final was crazy, and the lengths he went to, to be able to help his team was inspiring.” – Keanu Wright-Dunrobin
“For me, Shane Webcke, he has an awesome motor and he was so tough. He has that real desire, and whatever he wants to achieve he just gets it done.” – Xavier Va’a