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