Jon Tuxworth June 02, 2012
He starred against fellow teenagers for the Canberra SG Ball side this year, helping steer the Raiders to a grand final berth.
And promising five-eighth Carl Johnson is confident he can handle the step up to playing against men when he makes his first-grade debut for Tuggeranong today.
With the Bushrangers desperate to snap a four-game losing streak, the 17-year-old has been thrust into the hot seat against undefeated Queanbeyan Kangaroos.
His SG Ball teammate, hard-hitting second-rower Jamal Nchouki, will also make his first-grade debut at Freebody Oval.
Tuggeranong captain-coach Jarrad Teka is hopeful the pair will provide the youthful exuberance needed to revive his side's season.
Johnson has replaced the injured Kurt Hamilton, who ironically is the son of Raiders development manager David Hamilton who handed Johnson his chance.
''We're going to give them a start and start building for the future, there's no better way to do it than with these young fellas,'' Teka said.
''They're good young players with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and that's what we're looking for them to bring, to spark some life into the club.
''They've proven their worth in their age group, and it's just about the next step for them and developing them for years to come.''
Quietly-spoken Johnson let Canberra's flashy SG Ball halfback Anthony Milford assume much of the playmaking responsibility in the under-18 competition.
He wants to make a name for himself against bigger bodies as he seeks to earn a start for the Raiders Toyota Cup side next year.
''I've trained there a couple of times [in first grade for Tuggeranong], but this is my first game,'' Johnson said.
''I'm probably more of an organiser than a runner and Jarrad just said to play like I usually play.''
Despite winning all six of their matches this year, Kangaroos captain-coach Aaron Gorrell said his side couldn't afford to be complacent.
''I still don't think we're playing to the best of our ability and we can't afford to get carried away,'' he said.