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Just like Jar­ryd Hayne, these footy stars are as ver­sa­tile as a Swiss army knife

Rugby League Week - - News - BY JOE MCDONOUGH


Con­sid­er­ing he starred in the Ma­roons’ Ori­gin win last year, Corey Oates prob­a­bly doesn’t re­gret pur­su­ing a pro­fes­sional footy ca­reer. But ac­cord­ing to his former head of school at St Brendan’s Yep­poon, Matt Couper, he could’ve cho­sen any num­ber of al­ter­na­tive elite sport­ing paths. “Corey was a freak at ev­ery­thing he did,” Couper tells RLW. “He could be at the Olympics throw­ing the javelin, or an elite 400m or 800m run­ner be­cause of his stride and kick. “He’d throw a javelin an ab­so­lute mile and win the dis­trict cham­pi­onships eas­ily with no train­ing. He had that per­fect de­cath­lete build and the sport staff at St Brendan’s have no doubt he could have gone on to rep­re­sent in ath­let­ics at the high­est level. “To give you some idea, he was ath­let­ics aged cham­pion at St Brendan’s in Grade 12 with a bro­ken thumb . . . he still won the 100m in the high 11-se­cond mark and he was coast­ing.” If you’re not jeal­ous enough of Oates al­ready, Couper says he was also a gifted crick­eter. “If he had wanted to pur­sue cricket as a ca­reer he would have been play­ing T20 for Aus­tralia. He was good enough. He could hit the ball hard enough and bowl quick.”


Watch­ing Kato Ot­tio top the NSW Cup tryscor­ers’ tally last year, it’s hard to be­lieve he was play­ing only his third sea­son of rugby league. Be­fore then he was an in­ter­na­tional vol­ley­baller for Pa­pua New Guinea. “When I grew up in the village, there’s a vol­ley­ball com­pe­ti­tion that goes on, so I de­cided to play vol­ley­ball,” the 22-year-old told Fair­fax Me­dia. “One year, I trav­elled to some coun­tries and play, I even went to the Philippines to play in the Asian Men’s Cham­pi­onship.” He was then re­cruited by the PNG Hunters in the Queens­land Cup and now he’s on the verge of mak­ing his NRL de­but for the Raiders.

“Corey Oates would have been play­ing T20 for Aus­tralia. He was good enough”

“Ba­si­cally, he was a 12-year- old and his fo­cus wasn't golf”


In­stead of lin­ing up against each other at ANZ Sta­dium in round seven, Ja­mal Idris and Te­pai Mo­eroa could’ve been ri­val Olympians if their ju­nior ath­letic feats are any guide. NSW Lit­tle Ath­let­ics records re­veals just how dom­i­nant the NRL stars were: Idris is the record-holder for both the un­der-8s shot-put and un­der-9s dis­cus, while Mo­eroa set the shot-put bench­marks for un­der-13s, 15s and 17s, as well as the un­der-14s dis­cus. Idris also lays claim to the Aus­tralian pri­mary schools’ 11 years record for dis­cus, and his abil­ity even caught the eye of renowned coach De­nis Knowles. “If he had stuck with it he could’ve been an Olympian by Lon­don [2012],” Knowles told The Daily Tele­graph. “At that stage he was throw­ing on nat­u­ral abil­ity alone, no weights or real solid train­ing pro­gram. But he had the arm span of an al­ba­tross.” Mo­eroa, mean­while, was ranked third na­tion­ally for un­der-20s in shot-put in 2015 and has pre­vi­ously talked of rep­re­sent­ing the Cook Is­lands at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.


Ka­lyn Ponga and Jared Waerea-Har­g­reaves de­mand huge pay pack­ets but what­ever they earn dur­ing their ca­reers will pale in com­par­i­son to the rivers of gold on of­fer in the world of pro golf. The Kiwi pair were both ju­nior prodi­gies; Waerea-Har­g­reaves won the Aus­tralian un­der-13s ti­tle in Perth in 2002 af­ter be­ing run­ner-up a year ear­lier, and Ponga won the New Zealand un­der-13s cham­pi­onship 10 years later. Ponga’s fa­ther, An­dre, ex­plained just how im­pres­sive the win was: “Ba­si­cally, he was a 12-year-old and his fo­cus wasn’t golf — he loved his touch [footy] and he loved his soc­cer,” he told “Prior to that tour­na­ment, he gave him­self six weeks to train and prac­tise for it. Then he came out and won the cham­pi­onship over boys who eat and live golf.” As for JWH, we can only as­sume he crushes drives like Happy Gil­more.


Tough- as-teak lock Luke Bateman thrives on the dirty work in the mid­dle third, but there was a time when the 22-year-old was also a gun swim­mer. The two sports sel­dom go hand in hand, and you cer­tainly won’t find too many first-grade for­wards who dreamed of be­ing the next Michael Phelps, but that was ex­actly the case with Bateman. While on a ju­nior schol­ar­ship with the Raiders, he was still get­ting up at 4.30am most week­days to swim lap af­ter lap, even­tu­ally giv­ing it up when he moved to Bris­bane to fur­ther his footy as­pi­ra­tions with Souths Lo­gan at 15. But the Miles prod­uct still holds a num­ber of age records in his home town, was a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive in butterfly, and even a three-time Pan Pa­cific medal­list as a 13-year-old.


Re­turn­ing home this year to play with the Townsville Black­hawks af­ter a one-sea­son stint with Pen­rith, Josh Hall boasts a unique sport­ing CV. The 197cm winger grew up play­ing league be­fore be­ing picked up by the Gold Coast Suns at No.94 in the 2012 rookie draft. But be­fore then, Hall har­boured am­bi­tions of mak­ing the Olympic team for Lon­don as one of the na­tion’s best high jumpers. This wasn’t a pipedream, ei­ther, as he’d al­ready won a bronze medal at the World Youth Cham­pi­onships in 2007. You can’t help but won­der where he’d be to­day if he con­tin­ued to work on his Fos­bury Flop in­stead of sign­ing with the Suns.

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