Kai O'Donnell made his Whitsunday Brahmans A-grade debut in 2016. On Saturday he will start on the bench for the Canberra Raiders against the Melbourne Storm.
Kai O'Donnell made his Whitsunday Brahmans A-grade debut in 2016. On Saturday he will start on the bench for the Canberra Raiders against the Melbourne Storm.

Raider #365: Proserpine junior gets NRL call-up

PROSERPINE State High School graduate Kai O’Donnell will realise a boyhood dream when he makes his NRL debut against the Melbourne Storm on Saturday night.

O’Donnell, 21, became Canberra Raider number 365 when coach Ricky Stuart presented the one-time Whitsunday Brahmans A-Grader with his first NRL jersey today.

O’Donnell has been named on the bench for the Raiders ahead of Saturday’s home game against the Storm.

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With Sia Soliola, Emre Guler, Corey Horsburgh, John Bateman, Sebastian Kris and Andre Niko unavailable for selection through injury, Stuart went to the Raiders’ rookie well ahead of Round 9 and O’Donnell’s was the lucky number called.

Former Proserpine local Kai O'Donnell playing for the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup.
Former Proserpine local Kai O'Donnell playing for the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup.

“With the long term injuries … it is going to provide a huge challenge to this squad and this club,” Stuart said as he addressed the playing group this afternoon.

“See that number there? You know what that represents? That’s our next Raider number. And it gives me such a special feeling when I’m introducing a new Raider to the squad.

“Raider number 365 – I want to congratulate Kai O’Donnell.”

Raider number 89, Mackay’s own Steve Jackson, was admittedly shocked when he heard the news.

“Holy ****. I don’t even know the name,” the 1989 Raiders premiership-winner said.

But Jackson – and soon the rest of the NRL world – will know the name Kai O’Donnell.

“It’s just awesome to see a local boy … make it into the big time. That’s a massive feather in his cap,” Jackson said.

SKILLED: A 17-year-old Kai O'Donnell (left) with fellow Proserpine SHS student Taine Browne, 16 after the pair were named in the NQ Cowboys Academy. Photo Inge Hansen / Whitsunday Times.
SKILLED: A 17-year-old Kai O'Donnell (left) with fellow Proserpine SHS student Taine Browne, 16 after the pair were named in the NQ Cowboys Academy. Photo Inge Hansen / Whitsunday Times.

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In a short but impassioned address to his teammates, O’Donnell said he felt “extremely honoured” to get the opportunity to take the field as a Raider on Saturday.

O’Donnell was promoted to the Raiders’ development squad this season after impressing in the Jersey Flegg Cup in 2019.

He played in 19 games for eight tries, averaging 27 tackles and more than 100 run metres per game.


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