Rocky young gun following in dad's Maroon footsteps
RUGBY LEAGUE: Rockhampton's Kobe Hetherington will pull on a Queensland jersey for the first time tonight on what is undoubtedly rugby league's biggest stage.
The talented hooker will line up with the Queensland under-20s against New South Wales in the curtain raiser to the State of Origin series decider at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.
The young Maroons side, which includes fellow Central Queensland products Elijah Anderson, Ethan Bullemor and Ben Condon, will be aiming to retain the Darren Lockyer Shield after last year's impressive 30-10 victory.
CQ's reputation as a breeding ground for league champions is further reinforced with five CQ players in the men's team - Cameron Munster, Ben Hunt, Corey Oates, Tim Glasby and Christian Welch.
There is a sense of deja vu around tonight's game for Kobe. His father, decorated NRL star Jason, also wore the No.9 in his eight Origin appearances in the late 1990s.
Jason will take his place in the sell-out crowd at ANZ Stadium and cannot wait to see his son in action.
"He's worked hard for it and it's great that that hard work has been rewarded," Jason said.
"This is his first ever Queensland jersey so he's very excited.
"I'm extremely proud of him. He's done well.
"It's definitely a special moment in his early career."
Kobe, 20, went to the Brisbane Broncos after graduating from The Cathedral College in 2016; his twin brother Zac was signed by the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Jason (pictured) has fond memories of his sons plying their trade in the back yard from a very young age.
They played their junior footy with the Calliope Roosters and Gladstone Brothers. They joined Rockhampton Brothers when the family moved to the Beef Capital in 2013 when Jason took on the CQ Capras coaching role.
"They'd play footy on the Saturday and come home with a group of mates and play footy in the back yard," Jason said.
"I'd have to turn the floodlights on so they could keep playing when it got dark.
"They were very passionate about it and watched it religiously on TV.
"They dreamed of going to the higher level. I always told them that hard work will go past talent that doesn't work so just keep working hard, chipping away and being patient.
"Wait for your opportunities and when your opportunities come you've got to grab them.
"Kobe's got a good opportunity on Wednesday night and he's going to be centre stage."
Jason has some incredible memories from his playing days but one of the most enduring was being selected for the Maroons for the first time in 1998.
He said it was fantastic that Kobe would wear the coveted Maroon jersey.
"You don't forget those special moments and Kobe won't forget this special moment," he said.
"Pulling that jersey on, it's got special significance. It will make the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
"He'll get a feeling of just how significant it is and an understanding of just what it does mean."
Jason, who has coached the Queensland women's Origin team for the past two years, said his advice to Kobe would be to "savour the moment".
"He's just got to really enjoy it, embrace it, get involved early and take it on board and run with it," he said.