In a week Gundagai High School Year 9 student Clay Webb won’t forget in a hurry, the talented rugby league forward was selected in the Australian under 15s schoolboys team after his NSWCHS side won the national championships at Wollongong.
To cap it off, he also inked a four-year deal with NRL club Canberra Raiders.
Clay secured selection in the Australian team at prop following four impressive performances for the championship-winning NSW public schools team.
Along the way to winning the title, they beat NSW Combined Catholic Colleges comfortably twice and in the final defeated a Queensland team 16-14.
The championships attracted the best under 15s players from across the country, with three teams from NSW (representing public, catholic and independent schools), two teams from Queensland, and one each from the remaining states and territories, excluding Tasmania.
Clay said the week-long camp was a terrific experience, both on and off the field.
Normally a second rower, he had no trouble handling the move to prop and revelled in the additional workload.
His coach had told him before the final game of the championships that he was on the shortlist for Australian selection, and Clay subsequently had his best game of the tournament in a two-point win over Queensland.
Selectors named a 13-man Australian merit team at the end of the competition, with Clay one of eight NSWCHS players picked.
“I was over the moon,” Clay said. “It’s probably the proudest moment of my life.”
His family was there to share the special moment, including his father Anthony – himself a NSW CHS representative, some 21 years previously – and grandfather Peter, a renowned player for the Tumut Blues in the 1960s and 70s.
The day before his Australian selection, Clay signed a four-year contract with the Raiders, with talent scout Peter Mulholland and Canberra CEO, Don Furner, both involved in the process.
Clay had attracted interest from the Parramatta Eels, Gold Coast Titans and Brisbane Broncos.
“The Raiders are a good fit for us,” Anthony said. “Apart from not being far away, Clay played for their under 16s team this year and has plenty of friends there.”
It’s expected Clay will complete Years 11 and 12 at Erindale College, the famed sporting school that has churned out a raft of NRL players, from Brett Finch to Jack Wighton.
Having been kept busy with his Raiders under 16s and representative commitments, Clay now turns his attention to the local league scene.
He pulled on the Gundagai Tigers jersey for the first time this year last Saturday for their Sullivan Cup team, and is also likely to play for Tumut Minor League’s under 15s team (Gundagai does not have an under 15s team).
Anthony said he is mindful of Clay doing too much.
“We’ll monitor how his body is going,” Anthony said. “But it’s hard to keep him off the field.”
Clay has been part of the Gundagai-Adelong junior rugby league club since the under 10s, when he moved to the town, having previously lived and played for Young.
“I’d really like to thank Dad and Pop for everything they’ve done for me, and everyone else who’s supported me along the way,” Clay said.