Rugby league is in their blood and the NRL is now about to re­ceive a gi­ant trans­fu­sion of tal­ent, writes James Phelps

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL -

MEET the sons of guns that are set to re­turn some of rugby league’s great­est sur­names to the NRL.

Con­tin­u­ing the proud father-and-son tra­di­tion that has al­ready pro­duced NRL stars like Mitchell Pearce and Nathan Cleary, th­ese are the next of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion stars who will soon carry on their fam­i­lies’ rugby league legacy.

The long list of tal­ent in the NRL sys­tem in­cludes Tris­tan Sailor (son of Wen­dell), Dy­lan Mor­ris (Steve), Kyle Flana­gan (Shane), Reed Iz­zard (Brad), Kobe Hether­ing­ton (Ja­son), Sean O’Sul­li­van (Peter), Jay­den But­ter­field (Tony), Dean Britt (Dar­ren) and Jack Johns (Matt).

“Whether we like it or not we of­ten fol­low in our father’s foot­steps,’’ said Roost­ers coach Trent Robin­son. “We also in­herit a lot of their traits.

“And that is why we are see­ing a lot of those guys at this level. A lot of th­ese kids were born to play rugby league.’’

Hav­ing a proud his­tory of pro­duc­ing or re­cruit­ing a list of star­ring sons that in­cludes Craig Fitzgib­bon (Al­lan), Jack­son Hast­ings (Kevin), Eric Grothe jnr, (Eric), Brett Mullins (Bill) and Brett Finch (Robert), the Roost­ers are lead­ing the way when it comes to gen­er­a­tion next.

Al­ready boast­ing three NRL play­ers with fa­mous fa­thers — Mitchell Pearce (Wayne), Paul Carter (Steve) and Ryan Mat­ter­son (Paul), Robin­son could soon un­leash the sons of for­mer State of Ori­gin stars Mark O’Me­ley (Nick and Jake), Ju­lian O’Neill (Ethan) and Adrian Lam (Lach- lan) with the quar­tet signed to con­tracts.

“The first thing is that if you are good at any­thing you need to be im­mersed in it for a quite a long time,’’ Robin­son said.

“For some it might start at 10 when they start play­ing with their mates. But for those whose father plays foot­ball, they are born into it. The head start that th­ese kids get is that they live and breathe rugby league from when they are born.”

Robin­son ad­mit­ted play­ers with fa­mous sur­names were tar­geted by rugby league scouts.

“When you are spot­ting play­ers you do look out for those sur­names,’’ Robin­son said.

“You know they will have good char­ac­ter if their par­ent did. If you have seen the par­ent re­act un­der pres­sure of­ten those things are passed on.’’

One of those to pass on his undis­puted tough­ness and un­com­pro­mis­ing at­ti­tude to his sons Nick (Roost­ers Holden Cup) and Jake (Roost­ers S.G. Ball) is ex-Kan­ga­roo en­forcer Mark O’Me­ley. But with the name comes ex­pec­ta­tion.

“It is a lot harder on the kid than the father,’’ said O’Me­ley.

“A lot of ex­pec­ta­tion is put on the kid be­cause of what the father has done.

“Ev­ery­one ex­pects them to be at least as good as the father.”

The Roost­ers' Ethan O'Neill, son of Ju­lian. Pic­ture: Mark Evans Ju­lian O'Neill

Sharks coach Shane Flana­gan and his son ( right) Kyle Flana­gan

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