When he made his NRL debut for the Gold Coast in 2008 at just 17 years of age, Jordan Rapana was a revelation.
In that same year, he had been playing for the Gold Coast Titans’ NYC under-20s team. He entered the NRL competition in Round 18 of that 2008 season and scored five tries in his first five games.
He then disappeared from the NRL radar for the next six years.
Jordan headed to England and Wales on a Mormon mission for two years before embarking on a period of self-discovery.
He had stints with the Western Force Super Rugby team and Palmyra Rugby Club in Western Australia, and he played for Royals in the ACT rugby competition. He also trained with the Brumbies and played for the Queanbeyan Blues in the Canberra Raiders Cup.
At a particularly low point in his life in 2013, he approached the then Raiders coach, David Furner, seeking a fresh start and an opportunity to again prove himself in the NRL.
Jordan wasn’t seeking a fortune. Having come from humble origins, he wanted a new challenge and a sense of purpose.
He made his Raiders NRL debut in 2014 in round 22 against Parramatta, six years after walking away from the game.
At the time, the Raiders said he would have made his debut for the club earlier in the season had the salary cap allowed.
The following season he played 19 games in the NRL for Canberra and has been a mainstay for the Raiders ever since.
He is among the most competitive players I have witnessed in a Raiders jumper. The only other players who I would compare him to would be Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley.
This is probably why Stuart loves having him in the team. He picks him each week knowing he will do everything possible to win.
A case in point was the weekend game against the Bulldogs where his statistics were off the charts: three try assists, 178 run metres, 10 tackle busts, three line breaks, two line break assists and a try in the 67th minute.
Sometimes that competitive spirit gets him into trouble with the judiciary as he works at an incredible pace. And it’s infectious. Through his dedication, he has the ability to lift his teammates. Numerous times we have seen him seemingly incapable of walking, let alone running, only to spring to life as though nothing would dare get in his way.
In many respects, his journey explains why, at 34 years of age, he appears to have discovered the fountain of youth. It’s as if he is making up for lost time.
He is among a select group of players still playing NRL at 34 years of age and he is contracted to the Raiders until the end of next season.
After six seasons away, he is making up for lost time.
And there is no reason, barring injury, why Rapana can’t keep playing beyond 2024.