By: JESS WEBSTER
Round 6 Rising Star nominee: Doug Lawrence
South African-born defender Doug Lawrence is still pinching himself at the thought of being offered a spot on Aspley’s star-studded NEAFL list.
The 20-year-old had been on the Hornets’ radar for the last couple of seasons before earning his opportunity in the NEAFL this year.
Recruited from the Western Magpies, Lawrence hit his strides in the QAFL last season where he earned the competition’s Rising Star nomination in Round 1.
Even more impressive in his rise up the ranks was the fact Lawrence spent two years out of the game while concentrating on his final years of high school.
When he returned to football in 2014 at age 18, he made his senior debut in Round 1, and hasn’t looked back since.
In just his fourth NEAFL game against the Canberra Demons last weekend, Lawrence was among the Hornets’ best in a 45-point victory, earning the Round 6 NEAFL Rising Star nomination as a result.
The 20-year-old said it’s still hard to believe how far he has come.
“I’ve always wanted to try and go as far as I could with it,” he said.
“I’ve got a very strict mum who didn’t want me to play rugby when we moved over to Australia, so that’s how I got into footy originally.
“In Year 11 and 12 my parents made me stop playing for two years. They said to play school sport while I could and to enjoy my last years of high school.
“Then I just wanted to get back into it so I joined the Magpies. They were a really good bunch of guys and that’s when I got that hunger back again.
“One thing led to another and now I’m at Aspley and trying to crack into the senior team and see where it goes from there.
“I guess that’s why I’m shocked (about the nomination), I’m still getting used to the fact I’m on Aspley’s list, let alone get a couple of NEAFL games for them.”
Lawrence was named for his NEAFL debut to replace star defender Michael Hutchinson in Round 3 against NT Thunder in Darwin.
His first assignment? Taking on three-time league goalkicking winner, Darren Ewing.
“I was pretty nervous. Well, that’s an understatement,” Lawrence said.
“I didn’t watch too many YouTube clips because everyone was telling me how good he was, and I knew aswell.
“It was a pretty unreal experience though. I was pretty happy with how I went on him. I know he kicked eight, but at least three were absolute ‘gimmies’.
“But it was really good to play on him and see how someone as good as him goes about it. He constantly keeps you on your toes.
"He is so smart and knows how to use his body. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have had it any other way. It was a good test.”
Lawrence has grabbed his opportunity with both hands, keeping his place in the side ever since.
With Aspley set to miss Gavin Grose and Hutchinson for an extended period of time, Lawrence will have every chance to further his development at NEAFL level.
“After my first game (against NT Thunder in Darwin) I was a bit shaky. But when you’ve got some of the guys like ‘Bourkey’ (Jordon Bourke), Jack Stanley and Jackson Allen around – even when Gav and ‘Hutchy’ have gone – I’ve been feeling a lot more comfortable each game.
“It’s just basically about starting to believe in myself a bit more. As a backline, I think we are clicking. There are a few new faces around, so everyone is starting to gel a bit better. I definitely felt comfortable on the weekend.”
The Rising Star is awarded to the most promising young talent in the NEAFL competition.
Nominees must be under the age of 21 and played less than 20 senior games at the start of the 2016 season.
Keep track of all the 2016 nominees and watch their individual highlights on our dedicated Rising Star page here.
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