The NRL’s wide world of sports
Just like Jarryd Hayne, these footy stars are as versatile as a Swiss army knife
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.”
RAIDERS WINGER COULD’VE SPIKED FOOTY
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”
THEY COULD’VE BEEN OLYMPIANS
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 ,” 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.
GOLFING SKILLS TO THE FORE
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 stuff.co.nz. “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.
TALL HALL HITS THE HEIGHTS
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.