Rabbitohs winger Braidon Burns tells you, our Members and supporters, in his own words what it was like to make his NRL debut last weekend against the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles.
I found out that I would be making my debut last Monday. We had video and at the end of the session ‘Madge’ (Michael Maguire) asked me to stay behind. I was waiting outside and sort of knew it was either him saying that I was going to play or I wasn’t going to play so I was sitting there and feeling pretty nervous. He came back in and I was actually shaking. That’s when he told me I was going to play.
I just lost it. I started tearing up and got pretty emotional. Everyone works so hard to try and make it to the NRL and that feeling that you have finally made it is pretty full on. We had a bit of a chat and I regathered myself before we hit the field for training.
The first person I shared my news with was my girlfriend Kayla. I told her as soon as I could and then waited until that night to tell my family. I sent a message to my Aunty who passed on the news to my Nan. I think they were pretty proud. For Nan, I’m not sure she fully understood what it meant but for my Aunty she was ecstatic as she is a Manly supporter and I was going up against her team. Despite her alliances with the opposition, she kept telling me how proud she was.
Throughout the week training stayed pretty much the same and felt normal. I didn’t read too much into the idea that I was debuting. I was focusing on trying to get things right with Hymel (Hunt) on our edge. When I got home at night, that’s when it all started to hit me. During those times I was getting pretty stressed as I had to organise for my family to come up and figure out who would be taking who to the game, but thankfully Kayla helped me out a lot with that and took it off my back.
As the week went on, sort of towards the middle of the week, I thought I had my head around it all but then towards the back end of the week I started to get a bit nervous again. The whole week was a bit of an emotional challenge, going back and forth between nerves and excitement.
I recall Cookie (Damien Cook) coming up to me after the Captains run on the Friday and saying “It’s crazy hey, finishing your Captains run before your NRL debut.” That was pretty big.
That night, I tried to get to bed pretty early. I sort of tried to tire myself out that day and keep pretty busy so I could fall asleep early that night.
I woke up the next morning thinking, “wow I am going to play today.” It was a crazy feeling…it felt pretty surreal. That day I tried to keep myself busy again. I had woken up at 8am and went for a swim, had brekky, then later on went for lunch with Kayla and her family. They had travelled down from Tamworth and wanted to see me before the game because they had to leave straight after. I watched a bit of footy and then it was time to get on the road.
When we got on the bus I was pretty tired because I had woken up pretty early and I was so excited yet also feeling pretty drained. I didn’t listen to music or anything, I just had a bit of a sleep. When we got there it started to hit me and I got a bit nervous again. I watched a bit of the under 20s game to keep my mind busy and thought, “that’s going to be us in a couple of minutes.” But I kept focusing on trying to control my nerves, keeping my mind busy and staying to routine like any other game.
When I got into the sheds I went about it like normal. The atmosphere was a bit different to 20s or Cup. There was a very professional sense to it but I kept drawing on the Charity Shield. I kept telling myself that it was already an NRL experience and tried to play it down a bit so I didn’t let it get to me too much, and I was using that to keep myself calm. We went out to warm up and I controlled my nerves pretty well after that. The boys were just getting around me and wishing me good luck and made me feel pretty confident. It wasn’t until Madge’s speech before the game that I got really nervous again. I shook hands with the boys and then it was game time.
As soon as I got out there I wasn’t thinking, “this is my debut.” I was thinking we need to win this game and I need to do my job. I was a bit nervous until I got my first carry and got smashed, but after that I didn’t feel nervous at all.
When it came to half time I was pretty drained, I was sitting there thinking, “far out we have another 40 minutes out there.” We had a talk from Madge and I kept thinking about my role – take tough carries, help the forwards out, make good reads in defence.
The first few tries were just trying to chase the scoreboard but when we started to run away with it, it was pretty crazy. To win my first game in the NRL was something I really wanted to do, to get off with a good start. Every time we would score, I would walk back and hear The Burrow cheering for us.
When we won, straight after I tried to look around to find my family. I knew I didn’t have much time as we would have to get back in the sheds and on the bus. I finally spotted them in the top right corner near the burrow and ran over to them. The first person I saw was Kayla then went around to Nan. They were all there. All the boys came over as well and I ended up getting a photo of the team with my family. One of my little cousins is obsessed with Sam Burgess so I asked him to come over and say hi and she started crying so it was a pretty emotional scene. It was very cool and I got pretty emotional then too as I kept thinking, “this is crazy, I can’t believe this is real.” It’s something I will never forget.
On the way home I was recalling what had just happened, my mind was trying to process all of it. I went home, watched the replay with my housemate and felt really drained.
It was different to any other game. I ran harder than I ever had before. The next day was a blur and went so quickly. I was pretty sore and went for a swim and just iced up to get ready for this week. I’m just taking it day by day now, listening to Madge and focusing on completing my role.
I’ve been here for probably four months and I think over the four months I’ve learnt more than I’ve learnt in the last two years. Not so much just footy-wise but also being a good person away from footy. Madge and the other coaches emphasise being a Rabbitoh 24/7 and we strive to be a good person away from footy and not just on the field.
I’m excited for what’s ahead and I’m proud to call South Sydney home.