Rugby League

NRL: Canberra Raiders halfback Kurt Baptiste to draw on Australian schoolboys days

He hasn't played regularly in the halves for seven years, but Kurt Baptiste's Australian schoolboys coach believes the Canberra Raiders hooker can "strike like a taipan" in the No.7 jersey.

Baptiste was a left-field choice to replace the injured Sam Williams for Saturday's crucial game with the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium.

Canberra Raiders hooker Kurt Baptiste has been picked at halfback for Saturday's match with the Cronulla Sharks.
Canberra Raiders hooker Kurt Baptiste has been picked at halfback for Saturday's match with the Cronulla Sharks. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The 24-year-old has impressed as the back-up hooker to English international Josh Hodgson in his second season with the Raiders.

While his selection ahead of specialist halves Mitch Cornish and Josh McCrone raised eyebrows, Baptise has experience in a play-making role.

He played his junior football with the Aspley Devils in the halves, represented the Queensland schoolboys in 2008 at halfback and at five-eighth for the Australian schoolboys the same year.

Baptiste was converted to hooker when he joined the Brisbane Broncos in the under-20 National Youth Competition.


Brendan Barlow has had a long relationship with Baptiste, having coached him at Aspley when he was 14, at Wavell State High School in Brisbane and with the Australian schoolboys.

"The Raiders fans will be hoping for tries and I've lost count the amount of tries Kurt has scored at junior level, school level and NYC level," Barlow said.

"He's quick off the mark and he can strike real quick.

"Whether it's from dummy-half or from halfback or from fullback, he can go from zero to top speed quick and break the line."

The selection of Baptiste at halfback could be a ruse.

The Raiders could give the out-of-contract Cornish another go, or turn to the experienced McCrone for the run into the finals.

Whoever gets the gig will need to steady the ship while Williams misses up to six weeks with a pectoral injury.

But should Baptiste play, he will partner the electric Blake Austin who is full of confidence after a three-try performance in last Friday's 36-22 win over the Newcastle Knights.

Barlow knows what Austin brings to the table having coached him in the Australian schoolboys in 2009, the year after Baptiste was in the team.

"Blake and Kurt are different personalities, but I think they will work really well together," Barlow said.

"Kurt's got a level head. If you can describe Kurt from the shoulders down, he's very aggressive, but from the shoulders up, he's very cool.

"He'll just wait for the opportunity and when it comes he'll strike like a taipan and away he'll go."

Baptiste's story is one of persistence. 

He was limited to five NRL games at the Broncos before joining the Raiders on a one-year second-tier deal last year.

Baptiste's strong form  earned him a two-year contract extension until the end of 2016.

"Kurt's been a good player ever since he started playing footy," Barlow said.

"The biggest asset is he's tenacious and a competitor and he's a winner.

"We've had many games where he's been our toughest and he's won us those close games or come up with that try-saving tackle."

SATURDAY: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 3pm. TV: Live on Fox Sports.