Homesick Lee rockets into his Raiders debut
Edrick Lee runs the ball ruring the Canberra Raiders v New Zealand Warriors clash at Canberra Stadium in April. Photo: Stuart Walmsley
He's rated a future superstar, but gun Canberra rookie Edrick Lee almost quit the club last year after taking a ''rocket'' from Raiders development officer David Hamilton to heart.
Lee, who will make his NRL debut against South Sydney tomorrow night, was one of a handful of Toyota Cup players that Hamilton put on notice last year, frustrated he wasn't making the most of his considerable talent.
Hamilton coached the Raiders' under-20s side last season, and said Lee walked into his office demanding to go back home to Queensland after the spray.
But it was the tough love the exciting outside back needed, and has helped him develop into one of the game's most outstanding prospects.
''I put a rocket up him one time, and he was ready to go [home to Brisbane],'' Hamilton said.
''Not long after he came in to have a chat with me and I told him the only reason I did that is because I saw the enormous potential in him.
''He came in and said 'Hammo, I'm keen on going home' and I told him you have to work hard because it's not easy making it to the NRL.
''I questioned him whether he realised he knew how good he could be, and I think that's all he needed to hear.''
Lee will play on the wing against the Rabbitohs, and is the major beneficiary of the axing of star duo Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson for alcohol breaches.
His combination of speed, size and strength has allowed him to dominate the Toyota Cup competition this year.
Hamilton believes the 196cm cousin of NBA star Patrick Mills is ready to take the massive step into the NRL.
''He just has massive raw potential, if he works really, really hard he could be something special,'' Hamilton said.
''To do what he's doing this weekend is credit to him, and he's definitely put the work in.''
Raiders legend Kenny Nagas was also hugely influential in convincing fellow indigenous outside back Lee to remain in Canberra. Nagas also moved from Queensland to join the Raiders, and made a point of nurturing Lee during his role as a Toyota Cup assistant coach last year. As a result, Lee signed a two-year deal with the Raiders in March.
''Kenny was outstanding for him, he knows how hard it is for them to be away from home,'' Hamilton said. ''I know he [Nagas] wanted to go home heaps of times himself when he was younger … and I know he helped Eddie big time.''
It's raised quite regularly that Brisbane snapped up star centre Jack Reed from under the nose of the Raiders. But Canberra has exacted revenge after the Broncos apparently overlooked Lee during his junior days in Brisbane.
Aged 17 in 2010, Lee was playing in the city's division two competition for Mt Gravatt, situated in the Broncos' official catchment area, when he was spotted by Souths Logan scout Brian Edwards.
Edwards had noticed Lee's potential three years earlier, and was staggered he had missed selection for Easts under-18 Mal Meninga Cup side. He threw Lee into the Magpies under-20 squad, and it took just eight games before Edwards was on the phone to Hamilton.
''I rang Hammo and said you'd better have a careful look at him, my eyes don't lie - this kid's got something,'' Edwards said yesterday. ''They [Brisbane] obviously had people working for them at Easts, and yes it surprised me [he was overlooked]. Hammo decided let's give him a crack at Canberra.''
NRL Round 12: Rabbitohs v Raiders at ANZ Stadium, 7.30pm. TV Time: Live on WIN.