Penrith Panthers' Stefano Hala reflects on junior representative selections

Running hard: Panthers under-20s prop Stefano Hala takes a hit-up for the Junior Kangaroos in Canberra in early May. He represented NSW in the under-20s State of Origin in Brisbane last week. Picture: NRL Photos
Running hard: Panthers under-20s prop Stefano Hala takes a hit-up for the Junior Kangaroos in Canberra in early May. He represented NSW in the under-20s State of Origin in Brisbane last week. Picture: NRL Photos

Penrith Panthers under-20s prop Stefano Hala has had the season of his life so far.

The 18-year-old in his first season of the Holden Cup has already been selected for the Junior Kangaroos and Junior Blues with both sides claiming wins.

Hala said he was shocked by his inclusion in the sides.

“It was a great achievement to make those two teams,” he said.

“One thing I’ve always said to myself is that I wanted to represent my state and my country.

“Pulling on the green-and-gold was a big highlight of my life and then to back it up with NSW was something special to be honest.”

After playing his part in the 46-22 win for the Junior Kangaroos over the Junior Kiwis in May, Hala said he had nerves before making his under-20 Origin debut.

Although NSW won the game 30-16, the Blues were down by 10-points in the first half and had to work hard for the win.

“I was a bit nervous because I’ve always wanted to represent my state and going out as the only Panther, there was a lot on my shoulders,” he said.

“It was a tough win and we had to come back in the second half.”

Having moved to Shalvey at a young age, Hala played most of his football for the Minchinbury Jets and the St Marys in the Penrith competition. 

After going through the Panthers junior system, Hala said he has a lot to thank the club for.

“The Panthers played a big part of me getting into those teams,” he said.

“The coach of the team and my teammates worked so hard in the off-season and without them I probably wouldn’t be there to be honest.”

He also wanted to thank his mum and dad for their help in getting him to where he is today.

The Panthers under-20s Holden Cup team currently sit equal first on the ladder but behind the Cronulla Sharks on point differential.