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Jesse Jackson. Photo: Tweed Seagulls

When Jesse Jackson sets his mind on something, he can become unstoppable.

It was four years ago when the Tweed Seagulls' Hastings Deering Colts prop changed his attitude towards his rugby league.

Born in Tweed, Jackson started playing the game at the tender age of five for Tugun.

Two years later, he moved up to Cairns, making a code switch to AFL until he realised he missed the contact of rugby league and signed with the Ivanhoe Knights at the age of 11.

From there, he started to develop through the ranks, playing in representative teams for Cairns and the North Queensland Marlins, and making the Queensland Rugby League Under 15 Emerging Origin squad at the back end of 2017.

Around the age of 16, he dabbled in AFL again so he could play with his mates, but it wasn’t long after this he realised if he was ever going to be serious about rugby league, he needed to make it his priority.

Jesse Jackson. Photo: Tweed Seagulls
Jesse Jackson. Photo: Tweed Seagulls

“I think I started striving for a bigger picture goal,” Jackson said of his change in attitude.

“Instead of just being satisfied with making those rep teams, I knew I could do better and I strived to do better.

“My attitude became, ‘if I can play really well, I can rise in the ranks and play NRL or any of the big leagues'.

“After those rep sides, I was determined to make a name for myself.”

From there, Jackson made Northern Pride’s Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup squad for two years running and was even named captain in 2020 before COVID-19 caused the cancellation of the season.

Then in 2021, Jackson and his younger brother, Jett, returned home to Tweed.

Jackson playing with the Tweed Seagulls Hastings Deering Colts in 2022.
Jackson playing with the Tweed Seagulls Hastings Deering Colts in 2022.

Jackson joined the club’s Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup team and signed with the Currumbin Eagles for club footy, while Jett started school at Palm Beach Currumbin.

Last year Jackson graduated to the Hastings Deering Colts side but in both seasons, he found himself on the fringes. However, with that right mindset, Jackson knew to look at the pathway competitions as his chance to stand up and show everyone what he is made of.

“I get a bit complacent in my footy,” Jackson said.

“When I was growing up through the years, I wasn’t striving to play as hard as I could and I was going through the motions.

“(In these competitions) it’s made me fall in love with footy even more. It makes me more competitive in the sport. I love how I’ve progressed in those comps and the level of the footy I've reached.

“Versing older lads, you have to try 100 per cent and doing that has improved my game a lot. I know if I want to make it, I have to be at the best of my ability every single time.

“Last year (in Colts) there were obviously some good names in the side that had NRL train and trial contracts so it was hard to push into a starting side. In the 18s, it was the same situation.

“I was always bench or 18th man. But I continued to show up and work for the team on and off the field, and show (Colts coach Aaron Zimmerle) that I can be helpful to the team. Then I started getting in the starting side as prop.”

Going from fringe player to starting player was good enough for Jackson, but right before the season ended in 2022, he had one more chance to prove himself.

Tweed finished the regular season with a 42-12 thumping from the Brisbane Tigers. Then in the first week of finals they found themselves up against the Tigers once again.

This game was grittier and much closer, but there could only be one winner.

And with seconds left on the clock, it was Jackson - running onto a pass from halfback Tom Weaver - who barged past four defenders to plant the ball over the line and hand the Seagulls the crucial 28-24 victory.

He was a semi-final hero.

“It was thrilling,” Jackson said.

Heavy lifter - Jesse Jackson

“I don’t know how to explain the moment but that game really showed what we are building for this year.”

While Tweed bowed out of the finals the following week, Jackson has continued to go from strength-to-strength.

He enjoyed a Hostplus Cup pre-season with the Tweed Seagulls and still gets the opportunity to train with them now on occasion.

The Tweed Colts side have had one bye and two wins to the kick off the season – including a Round 1 takedown of the reigning premiers, Townville – with Jackson starting on both occasions.

He is still thriving off his experiences with the Cup squad and has plenty of goals for the season ahead – both with Colts and Cup.

“It was unreal,” Jackson said of his pre-season.

“(Cup coach) Dave Penna has done a lot of good things for the club, especially for how we progressed as a team through the 20-week pre-season. It was long but it was really beneficial.

"My game has already improved a lot, especially training and bonding with a lot of older boys. They teach me a lot, even now still. They help me to be a better player and show me how I can improve.

“I want to definitely try to make a debut for Cup this year and at least play one game. Two or three would be really beneficial for me and prove to me I’ve done the work and that I know I can sit at that level.

“For Colts, I want to do all the little things right and be an 80-minute player. For a forward, it’s tough but if I can get to 80 minutes, I can do somewhat that in Cup.

“Our bond, it's showing more than last year... we trust one another and we trust the inside mate to get the job done. That clicked for us on the field in Round 1.

“We can go all the way this year. We haven’t competed against many top teams yet, but we’re definitely striving to be the top this year. We got cut short last year and we’ve come back with a stronger bond.”

Heavy lifter: Jaylan De Groot

And as Jackson strives to achieve those goals in 2023, he won’t be doing it for just himself. He said his first big influence in rugby league was his dad, Ben, who gave him all the support and feedback he needed as he developed.

But these days, he views his younger brother Jett as a bigger influence. A fellow forward, Jett played for the Tweed Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup side this year and Jackson wants to keep showing his brother the way forward.

“My little brother, I’ve been trying to be a role model now that he’s also doing very0 well for himself,” Jackson said.

“It makes me more competitive and to try to do the best I can.

“He’s doing really good for himself and it pleases me. It makes me determined to get better for him and show him what he could achieve.”

Jackson will start for the Tweed Colts once again this Saturday, when they take on the Souths Logan Magpies from 3pm.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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