Aitken: NSW Country Origin Would Be Great
By Tony Webeck (NRL.com)
He has represented the Prime Minister's XIII in Papua New Guinea and now St George Illawarra centre Euan Aitken has his eye on a spot in the AAMI Country team to face City in Tamworth on May 8.
A South Coast junior who has represented the New South Wales under-18s and Junior Kangaroos, Aitken faces stiff competition from Roosters star Blake Ferguson for the right centre position with Jarrod Croker a lock to play at left centre given his strong start to the season.
Jack Wighton played at right centre in Country's 34-22 win in Wagga last year but given he has been playing primarily at fullback for the Raiders would seem more likely to be handed the No.1 jersey this year.
Aitken scored a try coming off the bench for the PM's XIII in Port Moresby last September and says that taste of senior representative football has made him eager to earn a start in Craig Fitzgibbon's Country team.
"I'd love a Country jersey," Aitken told NRL.com.
"That's definitely something that I've thought about a little bit, but not getting too far ahead of myself. We need to win games with the Dragons first and that's where I'm going to put my focus.
"It does give you confidence or sure, to get picked in a team like [the PM's XIII]. It's only a small little stepping stone, there's hopefully better things to come if I can keep working on my game and keep getting better every week.
"I think you do get a bit of confidence from it but I'm the type of player that doesn't like to worry about the past, just keep moving forward because if you dwell on the past you get stuck there.
"It was definitely a good experience to play with some quality players. Trent Merrin, Jarrod Croker, Adam Reynolds, James Segeyaro, there were a lot of really good players so it was good to get into a team with elite players and even though it was a young side we played pretty well over there."
Although he may have missed a couple of try-scoring opportunities on his outside Aitken was one of the Dragons' bright points in their loss to Brisbane last week and will line up opposite Titans centre Josh Hoffman on Saturday.
Aitken's five tackle busts and 182 running metres were both up significantly on his season average and the 21-year-old says he is now trying to lock down that right centre position in the Dragons' backline.
It was the position that Josh Dugan played for the first two weeks of the season which found Aitken on the outer, but he said he had been determined to fight his way back into the team.
"I just wanted to show to the team what I've got to offer," Aitken said.
"It was disappointing to get dropped back in Round 2 but I didn't want to let that affect my confidence or anything like that.
"I just wanted to make sure that when I got my chance again I was going to put everything into it and put all my effort into retaining that spot and playing good footy.
"It's always a big challenge when you've got a player like that sitting in front of you and obviously 'Doogie' was playing right centre at the start of the year.
"I'm the type of player that's going to look to the future and not to the past so I thought if I kept working hard I'd eventually get a crack in first grade and when I did get that crack I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward."