Luke Garner caps off incredible rise with debut
Wests Tigers forward Luke Garner will become Wests Tigers Player #219 today when he makes his first-grade debut against the St. George-Illawarra Dragons.
In doing so, Garner will become the sixth player to make their NRL debut at Wests Tigers under Coach Ivan Cleary and cap off an incredible personal rise over the last month.
Four weeks ago, Garner's full-time job was mowing lawns.
Today, his full-time job is playing rugby league and earning his shot at playing on the main stage.
Born just shy of the Queensland border in Tweed Heads, Garner first started turning heads at Palm Beach Currumbin on the Gold Coast as a teenager. From there, he made the move down to Sydney to join the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in Holden Cup — featuring prominently in a team stacked with talent such as the Trbojevic brothers and now Sharks centre Jesse Ramien that went all the way to the Grand Final.
A switch of beaches to Bondi on a full-time contract with the Sydney Roosters had Garner on the verge of realising his NRL dream, but like a number of untold stories in rugby league, the chance just didn't come.
It wasn't through a lack of effort, or application. It just wasn't to be.
By 2017, Garner's full-time work was mowing lawns — dragging himself to training in the afternoon on a part-time contract with Wests Tigers in the Intrust Super Premiership competition.
A full-time switch to the back row saw the 22-year-old take off in 2018 under new Coach Brett Hodgson, who soon made the promising forward captain of the team. His side's best in the opening half of the season, Garner was rewarded with selection in the NSW Residents team that comprehensively beat their Queensland counterparts prior to Origin Two, but his shot at making it in the NRL still appeared on hold.
With the June 30 deadline literally around the corner and external focus more on the return of Life Member Robbie Farah, Garner was signed to the remaining spot on Wests Tigers roster for the rest of the season.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Training hard throughout the Round 17 bye, Garner will finally earn his shot when he comes off the bench — likely to spell either Chris Lawrence or Josh Aloiai in the back row at some point this afternoon.
Garner's journey hasn't necessarily been one full of drama with a Cinderella storyline to follow.
It's a story of little fuss, but driven purely by effort. Just like the man himself.