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Clarkson on track to 'make the big time'

Jayden Clarkson is a burly forward from Redlands that has captured the attention of Queensland selectors and the Canberra Raiders. 

The 17-year-old was one of 34 talented teens picked for the Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin squad that got together for a camp at the Sunshine Coast at the weekend. 

Jayden, who starred for Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup competition last year, said making the squad had further fuelled his drive "to make the big time". 

"I got the call and I couldn't be happier... it was an amazing feeling," Jayden said. 

"I gave mum and dad a call straight away. They were happy as."

The Redlands Rugby League Club product said hearing Queensland Maroons coach Kevin Walters, and Maroons legends Justin Hodges and Corey Parker, speak about what it meant to play for Queensland was "unreal". 

Jayden Clarkson during Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Jayden Clarkson during Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

"The passion they have... for that to be carried on through us, that's a tremendous honour," Jayden said. 

"It would definitely be a great honour to play for Queensland. Just the way Corey and Hodges talk about it makes it even more special. 

"It means everything. The passion behind Queensland, playing for your country, your family, your friends and yourself."

Jayden, who plays front row and lock, said on the field he was inspired by Maroons and Raiders hard man Josh Papalii. 

"I just try and better myself... compete with myself," Jayden said.

"But the likes of Papalii, I just try and base my game off guys like that.

"Obviously I want to try and make the big time. But I will take it step by step at the moment, just keep doing what I'm doing now and do it well."

The former Wavell State High School student, who trained under Matt Ballin as part of the school rugby league program, said he quite simply enjoyed playing rugby league and wanted to do it as long as possible. 

Jayden Clarkson during Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Jayden Clarkson during Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin camp. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

"Matt Ballin was assistant coach. He taught us his experience with Origin and NRL. Took us through the fundamentals to get there," Jayden said. 

"I started on the bayside, Redlands Junior Rugby League Club... I spent 11 years there and now I have been lucky enough to get picked up by Canberra and make my way down there.

"I've been training with Jersey Flegg Cup and now I've been filtered back down to the 18s to play for now.

"It's awesome. So different, compared to up here. The intensity is more, contact, collisions."

Jayden said he had trained a few times with the senior Raiders squad and enjoyed every second. 

"They've been really good. To get around them, it's really encouraging," Jayden said. 

"It's such a community-based club. It's really good.

"I played Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup last year for Wynnum Manly Seagulls... Canberra is like Wynnum. Professional. A mad environment."