Raiders player Jack Ahearn sporting his old Tuggeranong Valley Dragons jersey. Photo: Katherine GriffithsThe similarities are obvious – same junior club, same playing position, same sleeve tattoos.
Nanjing Night Net

But look further than skin deep, and emerging Canberra Raiders young gun Jack Ahearn couldn’t be more different from Josh Dugan.

The pair are good friends, a bond forged when they were juniors at Valley Dragons.

While Dugan was sacked by the Raiders last year, and has revived his representative career at the St George Illawarra Dragons, many are tipping Ahearn to break through for his NRL debut this season.

”I just smile,” Ahearn says of the comparisons.

”Duges and I are good mates and he’s a great player, so the comparisons don’t bother me at all. We get compared to each other a lot being juniors at the same club, and [with] the tattoos, but we’re fairly different in the way we play. That was a mistake by Duges and it’s unfortunate because he’s a wonderful player. It’s a learning curve for everyone and especially us young players coming through.”

About the same time as Dugan was infamously pictured drinking and giving the finger on a Canberra rooftop, Ahearn was finding his faith.

He has attended Holy Family Catholic Church in Gowrie for the past year, which he describes as ”a place of peace”.

”I was a bit scared about going to church but a school mate put up a Facebook status about church and he took me along,” Ahearn said.

”I do this program once a week where they teach us about the faith, the journey and the morals.

”It keeps me grounded going back to church and staying humble.

”I have a little church family that looks after me. It’s nice, relaxing and comforting.”

Ahearn’s tattoos have motivational or spiritual meaning, too, including the Lord’s Prayer and the lyrics of a Beyonce song.

”The paragraph of lyrics down my ribs is I Was Here by Beyonce. It’s about leaving your mark and doing the best you can,” Ahearn said.

”I’ve got four Chinese symbols – family, love, honour and believe – and Roman numerals on my back for date of birth.

”My favourite is the religious sleeve [on my left arm]. When I was 18 I told myself I wouldn’t get a sleeve, but two or three years later here I am. It’s a bit of an addiction.”

The 21-year-old is a creative ball-player with great vision. A fullback all through juniors, Ahearn has been earmarked as a potential five-eighth by new coach Ricky Stuart.

Ahearn said he was apprehensive when Stuart, one of the game’s greatest halves, told him he was switching to a playmaker role.

While Ahearn looks destined for the halves, he admitted Anthony Milford’s pending move to Brisbane could open up a chance to grab the fullback spot long term.

”But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I want to stay humble and grounded and hopefully perform at NSW Cup level first,” Ahearn said.

”I knew taking on this [halves] role, if I go back to fullback it would help my ball-playing there anyway, and help my defensive game being in the front line.

”I was hesitant and nervous, but I saw it as a challenge and opportunity to test myself. I think it’s a change for the good.”

Ahearn is managed by former Raiders fullback and captain Clinton Schifcofske.

”I can see him as a six,” Schifcofske said.

”He’s got a great pass and he takes the right option more often than not and a great kicking game. He’s got great vision, a bit of Darren Lockyer about him. He’s not going to be Darren Lockyer, but he plays a similar style.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.