Jordan Rapana has revealed it was a fear of squandering his talent that has led to his late-career purple patch and surge into Kiwi calculations.
Rapana’s form has become almost irresistible for New Zealand Test coach Stephen Kearney after the 26-year-old winger led Canberra’s 54-4 rout of South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
Of the Raiders’ 10 tries, Rapana scored two, set up another two and had a hand in another in a starring performance.
As well as leading the league with 107 tackle busts this year, he is also in the running to be the league’s highest try scorer with 13 – four behind Melbourne’s Suliasi Vunivalu.
He finished Sunday’s match against the Rabbitohs with two try assists, three linebreaks, six tackle busts and 105m.
It’s been a remarkable rise for Rapana who just three years ago was playing park football in Canberra after a failed stint in rugby union.
He signed with the Raiders in late 2013 but it wasn’t until Ricky Stuart’s arrival that he began to flourish.
He said he realised his time at the Raiders was his last chance to make something of his playing career.
“I’m just getting on now age-wise so I’m just trying to play each game as if it’s my last,” Rapana said.
“I’m just trying to play with some desperation and cement a spot here.”
Raiders coach Stuart said the key to unlocking Rapana’s talent was improving his sometimes lackadaisical attitude to training and preparation.
“Jordan’s always had the talent,” Stuart said.
“Some guys mature a little bit later in life than others. Jordan’s decisions off the field, in regards to his preparation and how he’s training, is a big part of why he’s at where he is.
“In rugby league things can turn either way very quickly, it’s turned pretty quickly for Jordan because he’s made some real sacrifices in commitment.”