Meeting your idol can be fun.
Barking orders at them? Not so much.
But North Queensland five-eighth Jake Clifford is up for the daunting task of yelling instructions at childhood hero Johnathan Thurston in a bid to take control of the Cowboys reins.
Just 20 and with only two NRL appearances to his name, Clifford still vowed to demand the ball more from ex-Test playmaker Thurston to relieve pressure on the retiring Queensland great in his swansong season.
“I need to take control a bit more,” Clifford said ahead of Saturday’s NRL round 21 clash with third-placed Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
“I need to call for the ball more and take a bit of pressure off Johnno.”
Clifford conceded he had been a starry-eyed Thurston fan since he was a kid growing up in far north Queensland.
The Cowboys even proved it, recently posting on social media a beaming eight-year-old Clifford meeting his hero Thurston after a North Queensland trial in Cairns.
“I was running the tees when they played a trial in Cairns and I got a photo,” Clifford laughed.
“It got dug up the week I was named to make my debut (two weeks ago). It got out there.”
Clifford had always been considered Thurston’s long term replacement at halfback for the Cowboys.
But the youngster earned an NRL debut a fortnight ago after his two try display helped the Queensland under 20s State of Origin side beat NSW for the first time.
Thurston has already called Clifford “the future of the club” after the youngster’s first two games in Cowboys colours.
The 35-year-old Thurston now believes he will leave the club in safe hands when he retires after his 17th NRL season.
Clifford admitted he was worried time was running out for him to make his NRL debut and chime into the Cowboys halves with Thurston in the veteran’s final year.
“Yeah, coming into the back end of the year I was always pushing for an NRL spot and I got that opportunity,” Clifford said.
“I am very honoured to be able to play alongside Johnno in his last year in the NRL.
“I have always looked up to Johnno. He has always been an idol of mine.
“To be able to play alongside him, particularly in my debut game, is something special.”
Second-last North Queensland are already looking to the future, blooding Clifford after they spectacularly crashed out of the top eight hunt.
The Cowboys’ last gasp win over Newcastle last round was just their fifth of the year, snapping a five-game losing run.