Just a couple of years ago, 12-year-old Jiordin Gaydon wasn’t even playing rugby league – now he’s following in the footsteps of his home-town hero Jamie Lyon.
Wee Waa’s Gaydon won the player-of-the-tournament prize at the annual Ricky Walford Shield in Walgett in August, just like Lyon did in 1993 when the event was first staged.
As part of his prize, Gaydon and his mum Amanda will travel to Sydney for this year’s NSWRL Grand Final Day, held on Sunday, September 28 at Allianz Stadium. The all-expenses-paid trip, courtesy of New South Wales Rugby League, includes their flights, accommodation, meals and transfers.
“Jiordin and I are coming down for a few nights and we’re really looking forward to it. We only come down to Sydney once every blue moon,” Amanda tells NSWRL.com.au.
“If it’s not too busy, it’d be great to go to Centrepoint Tower to check out the city, maybe Madame Tussauds and if it’s sunny and warm enough maybe go for a swim.”
Jiordin, a Parramatta fan, said it was a big honour to be given the prize, especially after having only played the game for two seasons.
“I’m really excited about coming down and seeing everything. I want to go and see the footy grounds,” Jiordin, who has three brothers and four sisters, says.
“It makes me feel really proud that I’ve won an award that Jamie Lyon won when he was little.
“I try to be like Jarryd Hayne and I follow the Eels… I just try to do my best and play hard in football.”
Jiordin’s interest in the Greatest Game of All was sparked by his family and friends – and his career goals are lofty.
“My friends were getting into football and I started playing in the park after school. I signed up and went good in my first year,” Jiordin says.
“Trying to make it into the proper NRL would be great. I’d like to play for the Eels or the Panthers, because I have memories of playing for the [Wee Waa] Panthers when I was a bit younger.
“My second-eldest sister played a bit too. She was going to play [in a competition] but then I told her she couldn’t because she’s too old… I learnt a lot about the game myself but she taught me how to do some special little kicks.”
Amanda couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity Jiordin’s award has provided – and how rugby league has helped turn around the life of her little boy.
“It’s only his second season – he’s rapt. He had a bad few years and he’s turned his whole person around and he’s done wonders with himself,” Amanda says.
“He was mucking up at school, having a hard time and those kind of things. I know rugby league has helped change him – seeing him at home, putting him into footy has seen him build bonds, he’s got close friendships now and if anything’s worrying him he can take that frustration out in a tackle and that kind of thing… I’m so grateful.”