Raiders recruit and Indigenous All-Star Jake Foster at Canberra training. Photo: Colleen Petch
Jake Foster thought he was victim of a ''gee-up'' when a Canberra Raiders official told him of his Indigenous All Stars selection.
But his initial shock was soon overcome by pangs of disappointment his grandmother won't see the biggest moment of his football career.
The unheralded Raiders recruit's grandmother died of emphysema three months ago, and Foster wished more than anything he could share the news with her.
''My first reaction was how good would it be to be able to tell her and see me in that jersey, to be able to see her face,'' Foster said. ''I get my indigenous heritage from my grandfather and grandfather on mum's side, and Pop passed on in 2007. When the game first came out in 2010 I thought hopefully they would be able to watch me play in it.
''Unfortunately they're not here, but I'm sure they'll be watching, wherever they are.''
Foster says his grandmother was one of his biggest fans, and remembers fondly the day he told her he'd be making his NRL debut for Canterbury at Penrith in 2010.
''I was pretty sure she had a bit of a teary eye and gave me a big hug and kiss, it was a good day that day,'' he said. ''Seeing her face when I debuted was awesome, it would have been good to see it again. When I was a young fella, she'd give me a dollar every time I scored a try.
''My Pa loved coming out to games, he was a big inspiration to me and one of my big heroes and role models in life.''
Foster has played just 10 NRL games, and the strength of Canberra's second-row stocks means he is far from a certainty to break into its best 17.
Perhaps the lowest profile selection in All Stars history, it's no surprise he struggled at first to believe he would be sharing a dressing room with Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston and Ben Barba. Foster was handed his opportunity after Sam Thaiday pulled out through injury, and the Indigenous side's forwards depth has always been far weaker than its star-studded back line.
''I thought he [the Raiders official] was geeing me up and having me on a bit, he showed me the list and I still didn't believe it at first,'' he said. ''I reckon it will definitely be a massive confidence boost, not only the game but hanging around the players in that team. It's still sinking in and to be involved in a game like that with the calibre of players they have, it's ridiculous.
''They're the best in the game at the moment, I just want to learn as much as I can off them.''
Foster is one of six Raiders selected in the All Stars game, more than any other club, five of who will line up for the Indigenous side. Reece Robinson and Jack Wighton will also be making their All Star debuts, and Foster said some familiar faces would help him overcome nerves.
While he wants to show he belongs at that level, proving himself as a player who deserves consistent football at Canberra is top of his list. ''I was looking for a bit of a fresh start and a good challenge, you play your best when you've got people around you to compete with,'' he said.