At the start of 2018 Jaiden Burke wasn’t going to play footy.
The disappointment of defeat in the 2017 Group 11 under 18s grand final, coupled with a new job, meant rugby league wasn’t his main priority.
But things change.
And now the youngest of the Burke boys set to line-up in Sunday’s Group 11 first grade decider against undefeated minor premiers Dubbo CYMS says he couldn’t be happier with the way his 2018 has panned out.
With a premiership on the offering, who could blame him?
“It’s bit of a fairy tale, to be honest,” Jaiden said, adding the chance to play with his older brother Mitch was a massive draw card to again pull on the black and white.
“It was definitely something in the back of my mind.
“To play with him in a grand final is a bit of a dream. We’re hoping to get the job done, we’ll have plenty of family there to cheer us on. We’ll have 30-something cousins there on Sunday.”
It’s a big weekend of grand finals for the Burkes, with younger sister Ella in a junior league tag grand final with Red Bend on Saturday.
Sunday’s first grade decider, though, will be the focus and Jaiden says he’s learnt a lot from last year’s 34-6 loss to a rampant Macquarie in the 2017 under 18s grand final.
He said having a stack of players with grand final experience, like his brother Mitch, is helping a lot.
“We’re the underdogs going into Sunday but it’s not as obvious as it was in 2016. CYMS know we’re coming to play this year,” Jaiden said.
Mitch, too, said other than coming from fourth, there’s not a lot of similarities between this year’s Magpies and the 2016 title winners.
“We’ve done it the hard way again but I like that way because you’re playing every week, playing desperate footy,” Mitch added.
“We came in as big outsiders two years ago but I think this year we’ve scored something the 200 points and only let 40 in over the last four weeks – it feels like we’re all clicking.
“We’re not over-playing our hands and we’re doing it for each other. It feels great this year.”
CYMS has thoroughly out-played Forbes on each of the two occasions the Magpies and Fishies have gone toe-to-toe in 2018.
In fact, after a round one 40-12 CYMS win, the second round, 60-14 thrashing the Fishies produced was Jaiden’s first game of the year.
CYMS know we’re coming to play this year.Forbes hooker Jaiden Burke.
“I think we’ve hit our straps in the last five weeks. We’ve got no injuries and we’ve sort of, I think, developed as a team since that game. Defence will win you games and everything we’re doing at the moment is coming off the back of our defence,” the youngest Burke said.
Jaiden will appear off the bench on Sunday, his rotation with rake Hayden Bolam one of the biggest features of the Magpies’ since the half-way point of the year when both returned to the black and white fold.
“Haydo’s probably the best hooker in Group 11,” Jaiden said.
“He’s a big talent and I just come on to try and do the same role, get the forwards going.
“It’s not bad coming off the bench. You can see what’s going on in that first 20 minutes. It makes my job easier with Haydo and Gracey there beside you making the tackles. It’s worked out well.”
Sunday’s first grade game is scheduled to kick-off at 3pm at Apex Oval.