In the six weeks in the lead up to Sunday’s match, Jack Payne had not played any football.
But despite this, he certainly made an impact in his NSW Cup debut.
Just a week before trial matches began, the former Mittagong Lions player broke his right hand.
But he returned for Illawarra RLFC in the March 12 match against Wentworthville Magpies.
Stepping up from the Illawarra-St George Dragons Holden Cup team, the young five-eighth had an immediate impact, scoring the team’s first try after 15 minutes.
Payne combined well with seasoned halfback Shaun Nona to lead Illawarra to a 24-16 win.
After several weeks out, Payne said he was pleased with his performance but felt there were areas he could improve on in the coming weeks.
“I was a bit rusty and I felt a bit unfit,” he said.
“My defence was a bit down but I haven’t been able to do any tackling for awhile.”
Payne was relieved to come away with a win and no injuries from the match.
“I didn’t know how my hand was going to go. My hand was the least sore part of my whole body [at the end of the game]. But my body held up better than I thought.”
Payne was one of several under-20s players who joined the NSW Cup ranks in 2017.
Illawarra won the 2016 NSW Cup premiership and Payne said it was good to have that experience in the side, particularly with his halves partner Nona.
“He’s played a lot of footy and it’s good to have someone who’s played heaps of [NSW] Cup matches.”
In the match against the Magpies, Payne found out just how different the NSW Cup is to the Holden Cup.
“Under-20s was really fast but in NSW Cup they’re huge blokes. Defence is a lot harder.”
Illawarra’s next match will be on Saturday, March 18 against the Newtown Jets at WIN Stadium.
Kick off for match will be 3pm.