WALKING in famous footsteps, Junee rugby league Andrew Heffernan has been given a golden chance to try to shoot for NRL stardom this year.
Three decades after Junee legend Laurie Daley launched his career with the Canberra Raiders, Heffernan, 19, is also about to hit the big time.
In a huge lift for his emerging NRL career, Heffernan has been named in the Raiders squad for the rich Auckland Nines tournament in New Zealand next week.
Named alongside Jarrod Croker, Reece Robinson and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs to play at the Nines at Eden Park on February 15-16, Heffernan yesterday admitted he was "definitely surprised" to be selected.
Speaking from Canberra, Heffernan revealed he was also determined to try to make the most of a remarkable sporting opportunity.
"I'm pretty stoked," Heffernan said.
"I was definitely surprised to get the gig."
Although born and bred in Junee, Heffernan played first grade as a 17-year-old with Group Nine club Southcity in 2012 - and earned rave reviews from ex-NRL hero Daniel Fitzhenry.
Two years later, however, the teenager star is now set to play against some of the world's best players at the Nine tournament.
Beforehand, however, Heffernan will get a stunning crack at playing for the Raiders in a trial against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday.
For Heffernan, the duel selection bombshells follow a smashing debut with the Raiders in the under-20 Holden Cup last year.
In a breakout season, Heffernan made a blistering impact and signalled he was a player with a massive future.
Significantly, Heffernan's rise has mirrored the arrival of Canberra coach of Laurie Daley's former Raiders team-mate Ricky Stuart.
Daley and Stuart were a phenomenal partnership at the Raiders and shared multiple premierships.
Heading into his second full season with Canberra, level-headed Heffernan is not about to take liberties with his rugby league development.
"I've been lucky enough to train with the first grade team in the pre-season," he said.
"I just want to do my best this year and to try to keep improving my game."
A centre, fullback or winger, Heffernan has never played at a Nines tournament, but is likely to be totally suited to the modified and fast-paced game.
With natural speed and agility, Heffernan should be a gilt-edge asset as the Raiders chase the million dollar prizemoney.
Counting down to the start of the NRL season next month, Heffernan says the pre-season has already been an "awesome" experience."
Jarrod Croker, meantime, has been handed the captaincy for the Raiders campaign at the Auckland Nines - and is thrilled to have Heffernan in the team.
"There are some young guys in our squad like Luke Bateman, Jack Ahearn and Andrew Heffernan who have all been massive at NYC level and they will get a chance to show their skill on a bigger stage," Croker said.
Raiders squad: Jarrod Croker (c), Reece Robinson, Mitch Cornish, Bill Tupou, Matt McIlwrick, Joel Edwards, Glen Buttriss, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Jarrad Kennedy, Mark Nicholls, Jake Foster, Lagi Setu, Mitch Cronin, Luke Bateman, Jack Ahearn, Andrew Heffernan
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