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Canterbury utility Jackson Topine.

Amid the misery of Canterbury's 38-0 Good Friday loss to the Rabbitohs, the biggest positive was the debut of Jackson Topine.

This is a young man whose impressive off-field commitment should encourage Bulldogs fans even more than what they saw on it.

The New Zealand-born, Perth-raised 19-year-old came to the club after being spotted by former recruitment manager Noel Cleal, came through the development system at Belmore and earned captaincy of the 2019 Australian Schoolboys.

With no lower grades last year due to COVID, and morale at the club not as high as it could be, Topine told NRL.com he made it a personal mission to be a source of positive energy.

He achieved that to the extent that he was named the Club Person of the Year at the end-of-season awards night.

"That was unreal; I was going to the presentation dinner at the end of the year thinking I was going there for a free feed," Topine laughed.

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"To get the privilege and honour of receiving that award was unreal. I just did what I do every day. I didn't try and do anything more. I knew I wouldn't be playing so I tried to just lift the mood.

"We obviously went through a couple of big issues I guess last year with everything that happened. Being in COVID you have to make fun out of what you do so I thought I'll bring a lot of energy and happiness to the club and try and be fun really."

Topine's infectious attitude drew high praise from his skipper Josh Jackson.

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"He's a good athlete and got a really good attitude, he's really positive and bubbly and he's bouncing around all the time," Jackson told NRL.com.

"I'm glad he's got his debut because he really deserved it.

"Nothing's ever too hard for him, he'll do anything and [last year] he was doing the ball boy stuff, travelling with us and doing that. He's just a really good club person, a good bloke to have around. We're really lucky to have him here."

Predominantly an edge forward and expecting maybe half an hour of game time on debut , Topine ended up playing 70 minutes mostly at hooker after Lachlan Lewis was injured and Sione Katoa moved to five-eighth. 

But the stint at dummy-half was far from something he was unprepared for, as evidenced by his reliable passing from dummy half to go with a team-high 46 tackles and none missed. 

"I was expecting to play less than 40 so my mentality was to go out and give it my all while I have the time but when Lachie went down I was like 'I have to change my mentality'," Topine recalled.

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"I grew up playing hooker, then when I came to Bulldogs for Harold Matts I slowly moved out so I went to lock, then edge.

"I've sort of been a player that you can just chuck in anywhere and I like to think I can do a job wherever the team needs me.

"I trained in a lot of positions. Centre, hooker, second row, lock, middle, wherever they need me, I train good enough to do a job there.

"It was my intention to know our team's game back to front so I know every position. I think if you know what other people need to do it makes yourself better in the position you are. It helps you talk to your inside and outside players and understand what they need to do so you can do what you do better."

Topine still gets goosebumps thinking about the moment he got told he'd be making his debut, and the moment he received his jersey from his captain.

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"It was a weird week because on Monday [Trent Barrett] told me I was getting named in the squad so I wasn't sure if I was playing or not," he said.

"Then I got told on the Wednesday as we were walking out of the meeting that I was making my debut so it was pretty overwhelming. It gives me goosebumps now. Then I ended up calling my mum and dad and they were overwhelmed and crying.

"We had a jersey presentation here just before captain's run started. I didn't think I'd get emotional but I did. It was an overwhelming feeling hearing what Baz and Jacko had to say."

 

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