Queensland Under 17 Country forward Sean Bourke only has to look to his older brother Jake to realise the great opportunity he has to progress towards his ultimate goal of playing NRL and beyond.
The versatile 17-year-old, an Ignatius Park College product, impressed for the Townsville Blackhawks in the Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup competition this year and is the younger brother of North Queensland Cowboys-contracted 19-year-old half Jake Bourke.
Jake, who was in the Queensland Under 18 Emerging Origin squad last year, featured in the Hastings Deering Colts competition for the Blackhawks this season and has also come through the Cowboys Young Guns program.
"Jake has done what most young footballers dream of doing, so to follow in his footsteps would be a great way to go," Sean said ahead of the showdown against Queensland Under 17 City at Moreton Daily Stadium on October 2.
Heavy lifter - Jake Bourke
"At the moment I am not contracted to the Cowboys like Jake is, but I am going through the academies.
"Jake has worked hard and I think that I work hard too… I think I can get there, but I have work to do."
Sean honed his skills in the backyard, and like most younger siblings, enjoyed getting stuck into his older brother.
"There were lots of footy games when we were younger in the backyard, and it was a big yard too," Sean grinned.
"He was older so I always tried to beat up the older brother. It was tough to do, but it was a lot of fun.
"My brother is a halfback. I have played halves before but I am looking to stick to the back row. I am more of a ball-playing forward who can put my head down and run hard when needed but also do a bit of stuff with the footy."
Sean has big dreams. That is a tribute to the impact the Cowboys 2015 premiership had on the aspirations of all young footballers in the region.
"A lot of great players have played for the Cowboys and that is the same path you want to go on in rugby league when you are from here," Sean said.
"I remember the 2015 grand final so well. There was two minutes to go and the Broncos had the ball. I thought it was game over. I said to dad 'it's done', but then Kyle Feldt scored on the buzzer.
"JT [Johnathan Thurston] is obviously one of the greats we all look to, but from a forward point of view, in 2015 Jason Taumalolo had one of his best seasons. Matt Scott and Gavin Cooper were the other forwards I was looking up to at that point of time.”
Sean has seen the pathway to the top in his home town and watched players in their teens go on and represent the Cowboys this year, including strapping 18-year-old backrower Jeremiah Nanai.
Nanai, a Cairns Kangaroos junior, finished his schooling at Kirwan State High in Townsville where he was a key member of the Bears' National Championship victory in 2019.
"I go to Ignatius Park High and we played against Jeremiah last year and he has been in the Cowboys team recently so he is a very good example to look at," Sean said.
"There are other boys there at the club who I have played against so it is cool to see them go through the ranks.
"Jeremiah is a very talented player and was always a few steps ahead but it does show you how close the NRL is if you work hard to make it a reality."
Blackhawks Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup coach Steve Sheppard said Bourke had a big future in the game and deserved his selection for Country.
"Bourkey is a genuine footballer," Sheppard said.
"He understands the game really well and can play in multiple positions. He competes on everything, can kick, pass and tackle. He is a good communicator and just an out-and-out footballer.
"Sean has a great work ethic and is a real pleasure to coach.
"He is a backrower or lock who can play in the halves. His brother Jake is in the Cowboys Young Guns program and is associated with us at the Blackhawks, and he's a good kid too."