Canberra Raiders youngster Brenko Lee has pledged to "redeem" himself for some nervous slip-ups on debut against Canterbury, revealing coach Ricky Stuart's faith to pick him again has boosted his self-belief.
While his ball-running was impressive, the strongly built 18-year-old made four errors and wants to show why Stuart considers him a major part of his future plans against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Saturday night.
"I think I was nervous when I made those errors," Lee said. "Ricky told me he doesn't mind me making errors, as long as I'm confident in myself.
"Him picking me this week has brought confidence to me, and I need to redeem myself for those mistakes."
When Stuart told Lee he would be making his NRL debut last week, he reflected on nearly throwing his football dream away when struggling with a serious hamstring injury last year.
It was Stuart's belief – plus some home truths from cousin and fellow Raider Edrick Lee – that convinced him not to fly home to Brisbane and to re-sign for three more years.
"I'm glad I didn't leave for Brisbane, I'd probably be on Centrelink if I went back, by now," he said. "[When I was picked] my mum was teary and said I'd come a long way since that injury.
"It sunk in after training, I was making my debut, and I got a bit teary and emotional.
"When he first told me that [I'm a big part of his future plans], it swayed me to sign for another three years. He's an honest bloke Ricky, he'll tell you to your face what's going on. I thought he was pulling my socks when he told me that."
Regular centre Lee is playing out of position on the wing and is being mentored by right-edge partner Jack Wighton, who was also blooded on the flank before shifting closer.
"Even when I was making mistakes he'd come up and smile and tell me to move on, which got my confidence back," Lee said.
"I'm trying to learn off him, he started off on the wing."
Wighton believes Lee will have no problem bouncing back against the Tigers, a match Canberra must win to keep its remote finals hopes alive.
"Everyone remembers the errors, but the great dummy-half runs and the runs he took out of our own end was unbelievable," Wighton said.
"I've had a few talks to Brenko. We're good mates and I said, 'You have to make mistakes to get better.' He'll be sweet."
Lee and Wighton modelled Canberra's one-off indigenous jersey on Wednesday, which they will wear against St George Illawarra in round 23 as part of NRL's Close The Gap round.
Designed by Raiders fan Elle Binge, it features Canberra's bogong moth.
Torres Strait Islander Lee said he was proud to represent his people. "It means a lot to me, I'm a very proud Torres Strait Islander," he said.
"I went back to my island, Badu, for a knockout competition last year and they're crazy rugby league fans. I like going back up there and seeing what it's like, kids playing footy on the streets at three o'clock in the morning."
NRL round 16: Wests Tigers v Canberra Raiders at Campbelltown Stadium, 5.30pm
TV: Live on Fox Sports