‘It’s a blessing’: CQ star signs with NRL powerhouse
RUGBY LEAGUE: Elijah Anderson couldn’t believe it when his agent Col Davis called three weeks ago, telling him the Canberra Raiders were looking to secure his services.
A week later, he was in Brisbane signing a contract with the NRL powerhouse and he is now preparing to move to the country’s capital next month.
It was an incredible development for Anderson, whose promising league career had seemingly stalled after the 2020 Intrust Super Cup was cancelled due to COVID-19.
He was contracted to the North Queensland Cowboys, and had played just one ISC game with their feeder club, the Mackay Cutters, before the season was called off.
Anderson, a former CQ Capra and Queensland under-20s representative, made the agonising decision to move back to Rockhampton in April and started as a support worker with Darumbal Community Youth Service.
With no senior rugby league on offer in Rockhampton, he switched to union, playing with Mount Morgan in the Rugby Capricornia competition.
The 21-year-old continued to work rigorously on his fitness and league skills, never losing sight of his dream to one day play in the NRL.
Then came the call from Davis.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Anderson said.
“It’s pretty unreal to get another opportunity with everything that’s been going on this year with the whole COVID thing and no footy.
“It’s a blessing.”
Canberra Raiders recruitment manager Peter Mulholland said the club was excited to sign Anderson, a player who had been on their radar for some time.
“I’ve watched him over a couple of years - through the Queensland 20s system, and in his early days in the Q-Cup,” Mulholland said.
“It was never a big decision; it was just a matter of getting him at the right time and trying to encourage him to move to Canberra.
“Obviously, we’ve got a number of good outside backs but Elijah certainly fits the criteria we’re looking for.
“I spoke to Mick Crawley, who is the coach of the (Mackay) Cutters, and he has a very, very high opinion of him as a person as well as a player and that was a telling factor for us.”
Mulholland said Anderson ticked plenty of boxes, with his attitude and determination two of his most admirable traits.
“I like his speed, I like his athleticism, I like his capacity to grow into that long rangy body. He’s certainly going to be a great athlete,” he said.
A Mount Morgan local, Anderson started playing league with the Norths Knights as a six-year-old.
He had a lengthy spell out of the game, due in part to a serious knee injury he suffered when he attempted to climb a bottle tree when he was 11.
He found his way back to league, again with the Norths Knights in the under-16 division.
It was around this time, during a CQ Capras trial, that he was spotted by Terry Hansen, the long-serving coach at St Brendan’s College.
“He got me down there in Term 2 when I was in Year 11,” Anderson said.
“That was unreal, and that opened some doors for me and gave me some great opportunities.
“I’d always loved rugby league but I think it was around this time that I said to myself this is what I want to do.”
Anderson is counting down the days until he joins the Raiders.
“I just want to get there and give it my very best and start playing some rugby league again.
“They’re such a great club. Last year they made the grand final and they’re still in the running this year.
“I want to learn as much as I can and I’m really looking forward to just being back in that footy environment.”