Wests Tigers youngster Zac Cini only needed 46 minutes to secure his status as the NRL’s latest cult hero.
Cini made his NRL debut against the St George Illawarra Dragons at Wollongong’s WIN Stadium on Sunday afternoon — called up for the injured James Roberts — and quickly won over rugby league fans.
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The 20-year-old from Minchinbury dived over on the right wing early in the second half to extend the Tigers’ lead, his marvellous mullet bouncing behind him.
But a horde of his family and friends quickly stole the show, wildly celebrating their mate’s maiden four-pointer in the stands — some were even compelled to whip their shirts off in the carnage.
“They’re a bunch of lunatics, but they showed some good support tonight,” Cini told Fox League after the match.
“That was amazing, that was a dream come true. Coming into yesterday, finding out I was going to play, just so many emotions, so many feelings.
“But once you get on the field and get that first touch, it’s just footy.”
Zac Cini of the Tigers scores a try.Source:Getty Images
Zac Cini of the Tigers with his fans.Source:Getty Images
Cini finished the round eight match with 149 run metres, four tackle busts and two linebreaks as the Tigers clinched a much-needed 16-8 victory.
“It was great to see his mates there. They are always special moments for a young local kid coming through,” Tigers coach Michael Maguire said after the game.
“I thought he really did a good job for us too. To see his mates in the grandstand go up and down, then him get another one, it was great.
“He works really hard at his game, bit of a quiet achiever. He knows his footy and has grown up dreaming of playing for the club. He’s been doing a great job in the reserve grade team.”
Cini had dominated the 2021 NSW Cup before making his first-grade debut — he averaged 193 run metres and five tackle busts during seven matches with the Western Suburbs Magpies.
Earlier this season, the Tigers tried offloading Cini to the Penrith Panthers in the hope of getting Daine Laurie, an offer which thankfully never worked out.
This Zac Cini looks the goods impressive so far on debut for @WestsTigers
Zac Cini and his mates are already my favourite story of the year. Carn @WestsTigers
Look, it's been one game so could be premature, but Cini already showing more than many this season.
I don't want to see us sign any more washed up has-beens like James Roberts.
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