Josh eyeing dream end to first season

JOSH Jackson hopes the omens are promising.

After helping minor premiers Canterbury down Manly 16-10 in their opening NRL play-off last Friday night, the rookie back-rower jumped in his car and headed up the F3 to play the role of spectator at his brother Jack's under-11 grand final.

Young Jack produced a typically wholehearted front-rower's game as his Valentine-Eleebana teammates outplayed Cardiff to claim the first piece of silverware of their fledgling careers.

Now Josh hopes to emulate Jack's lap of honour but on a far bigger stage - at ANZ Stadium on September 30 after the NRL decider.

At the age of 21, and with just 10 top-grade games to his name, Jackson is tantalisingly close to realising every player's dream.

He is 80 minutes away from a grand final and admits there are times when he finds his rise a tad surreal.

"The older blokes, they remind us about it," he said.

"It's always been a dream of mine just to play in the NRL, and to be playing in the finals in my first year and so early on, it's just unreal."

Unsurprisingly, Jackson has no regrets about his decision to leave the Newcastle Knights three years ago and move to Belmore.

Jackson played alongside Tyrone Roberts in Newcastle's Jersey Flegg (under-18) side in 2009 and had been earmarked for their under-20s the following year.

But as he played out the end of that season with Lakes United in the Newcastle Rugby League, the Bulldogs produced an offer from left field he decided was too good to refuse.

"Newcastle were a little bit interested and they made me an offer," Jackson said.

"But I don't think they were really willing to go as far as the Bulldogs. I just thought the opportunity at the Bulldogs was a bit better. They seemed more interested, so I made the move."

Jackson, who grew up in the central west of NSW, spent only a few years as a Novocastrian, but his folks still live at Croudace Bay.

"I was at Gulgong and moved to Newcastle when I was almost 16," he said.

"I did year 11 and 12 at Hunter Sports High and played SG Ball for Newcastle when I was 18, before I moved to Sydney for NYC."

Contracted to the Bulldogs for two more seasons, Jackson debuted against Melbourne in round 16 and has not looked back since.

"Dene Halatau got injured and it was unfortunate for him but it gave me an opportunity," he said.

"[Coach] Des [Hasler] showed some faith in me and I guess the rest is history.

"I think I've been putting together some consistent performances. I've got to give a lot of credit to my teammates. They do their job and that helps make my job easier."

In his 10 games he has scored four tries and established himself as a high-workrate toiler who complements impact players like Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood.

"We've definitely got some big powerhouses in our team and I guess for me, playing 80 minutes, it helps a bit with the rotation," he said.

"I can play off the back of those guys and it makes my job easier."

Physical fitness has been a cornerstone of Jackson's game since his days in Newcastle. The exercise science university student has played in every minute of Canterbury's past five games, including their 89-minute golden-point win against Wests Tigers four weeks ago.

"Definitely being one of the smaller back-rowers, I guess you need to have other characteristics and me playing 80 minutes is one of those," he said. "A lot of it comes down to your mental state and just being able to push through."

Now he will turn that same steely mindset to ensuring his younger brother is not the only family member with bragging rights this season.

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