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Brad Fittler’s decision to give a 16-year-old Boyd Cordner a taste of the NRL by asking him to play two matches on one day has motivated the Sydney Roosters international to overcome a series of injury setbacks to become one of the best back-rowers in the game.

Cordner, 23, will reach the 100-game milestone for the Roosters in Sunday’s match against Canterbury, but after taking two-and-a-half years from that pre-season game against Parramatta to make his premiership debut in round 13 of the 2011 season, many had begun to think injuries would prevent the schoolboys star from ever reaching his potential.

In between Cordner had to cope with two knee reconstructions and a broken jaw, but the NSW Origin back-rower insists he never gave up hope of fulfilling his NRL dream and credits the shock call-up by Fittler, who was coaching the Roosters, to play in a 2009 pre-season trial against Parramatta as the driving force for success.

“That game is one I will never forget, and looking back at it now that I am older, it is something I am really proud of,” Cordner said. “After that is when the injuries started to happen. I have injured both ankles, knee operations, shoulders and I broke my jaw, but I wouldn’t change anything because it has got me to where I am today.

“Playing that trial just made me more motivated and I just wanted it more. I have done everything I could and worked the hours I have because I got that taste for it in that game. I just worked extra hard because it is all I wanted to do since I can remember. That was my mindset and I have done everything possible to achieve that.”

Earmarked as a future Roosters captain, Cordner spent the 2007 pre-season with the club while on school holidays, flying from Taree each Friday to train and play SG Ball for the Newtown Jets.

After playing an SG Ball match at Penrith, he was approached at full-time by Roosters recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan and told that Fittler wanted him at Campbelltown for the NRL trial against the Eels.

“It was stinking hot and I had just played a full game,” Cordner said. “As I walked off the field, Peter O’Sullivan came up to me and said ‘keep your boots on, we are going to Campbelltown and you are going to play in the first grade trial’.

“I didn’t know what to think, I was gobsmacked. I didn’t even have a shower, I just grabbed all my gear and jumped in the car to go to Campbelltown. When I got in the sheds I was still pretty speechless. I was only 16 years old and I was playing first grade. I sat on the bench and played the last 20 minutes.”

This reporter was at the match and Cordner did not look out of place during his 22-minute cameo against the likes of Fuifui Moimoi, Tim Mannah and Jarryd Hayne as the Eels recorded a 30-24 win.

Roosters captain Jake Friend said it was obvious from the first time Cordner came to training in late 2008 that he was destined to be a star.

“You could just see it in his defence, he was whacking blokes who were seasoned NRL players,” Friend said. “That was at 16 and that is why he is now playing for NSW and Australia.

“It is weird to think that we were playing and he was training back then, it seems like Boyd has been around forever, but he was only 16 at the time.

“He is a leader in our team at such a young age and he is one of those guys who does turn up every week with that ethic and consistency we want the Roosters to be known for.”

Cordner said he would have reached the 100-match milestone earlier if not for the number of serious injuries he’s suffered, including the recent pectoral muscle tear that sidelined him for the first seven rounds of this season, but he was proud of the achievement.

“I have probably missed about 20 or 30 matches with injuries, but when I was coming down as a 16-year-old my goal was just to play one NRL game and I was happy with that, so a few years on to be playing my 100th game is exciting and all of my family is really proud of me and that is something I am proud of myself,” he said.

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