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Under 18 Emerging Origin camp a Grand adventure

Travelling for football is nothing new for Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin squad member Grand Hagai.

The versatile back – signed with the Newcastle Knights – was one of the players involved in the camp held at the Sunshine Coast this past weekend, adding another step forward in his rugby league journey.

“It’s my first time (in one of these representative camps) – it’s a good experience,” Grand said.

“(Camp is) good at the moment, meeting all the new boys.”

Grand, last season, played for the Wynnum Manly Seagulls' Auswide Bank Mal Meninga side that made it all the way to the competition’s grand final, where they lost to eventual national Under 18 champions Tweed Seagulls.

He then moved to Newcastle to join with the Knights and remains with them for the 2020 season.

“Last year I played in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup for the Wynnum Manly Seagulls, and went down to Newcastle to play SG Ball,” Grand said.

“Footy down there is kind of different to Queensland."

Grand, of his move down south, said “Newcastle is alright ... I had Brocco (Uhrle) with me, so that was good". 

Brocco, who played last season with the Norths Devils, was another player selected in the squad to take part in the weekend camp that focused on exposing future elite talent to the Queensland Maroons culture.

“He’s a good mate and we help each other out," Grand said. 

Grand Hagai and his Wynnum Manly Seagulls team mates. Photo: QRL
Grand Hagai and his Wynnum Manly Seagulls team mates. Photo: QRL

Still only 17, Grand has lived and played football in a number of cities already, starting out as a rugby union junior with East Tamaki in Otahuhu, New Zealand, before he and his family travelled ‘across the ditch’ to make a home in North Queensland.

“I have moved around a lot,” Grand said.

“I played for Mareeba Gladiators up in Cairns, so I started playing (rugby league) up there, I started at Under 11s.

“I started out playing rugby union, but I switched over to league when I moved to Australia. I moved from New Zealand when I was 10.

“Up in Cairns, they didn’t have much rugby union, so I made the switch to league.”

Grand Hagai at Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin training. Photo: Jorja Brinums / QRL
Grand Hagai at Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin training. Photo: Jorja Brinums / QRL

After five years in the north of the state, he and his family were packing up again, this time finding themselves in the south east of the state so he could play footy.

“I went to Mabel Park, I played school footy there up in Logan,” Grand said.

“I stayed up in Mareeba for five years and moved to Brisbane for two years then moved to Newcastle.”

His family, which includes a younger brother who also plays rugby league, live in Woodridge and were proud to see Grand selected for his first representative camp which saw him train under the guidance of Queensland Under 18 coach Kurt Richards and some Maroons legends.

Justin Hodges directs Under 18 players at the Emerging Origin camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums / QRL
Justin Hodges directs Under 18 players at the Emerging Origin camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums / QRL

Maroons coach Kevin Walters and former players Corey Parker and Justin Hodges joined the camp to share their knowledge with the young players and lead some drills during their field sessions.

“I was with Justin Hodges, which was good... I learnt heaps of stuff,” Grand said.

“Some of tips he told us were about defence... (how to) move up square first and then shift.

“Practical things and stuff we need to work on.

“The camp is a good first step (and I am) learning a lot ... and (I will) take what I learnt from this camp back to my club and work on that.”