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Tough Dragons lock Dean Young can’t help but be forever in touch with his feminine side, given all the supportive women in his life. <b>Women in League special report by Benjamin Everill.</b><br><br>Craig Young was one of the fiercest footballers of his time, in fact any time. As the front man for St George in their last premiership triumph back in 1979, ‘Albert’ was as tough as they come. Some say he could knock you out with one of his fierce stares and those who felt his right or left hook, either football players or criminals from his days as a cop, don’t remember much to tell you. He was a “man’s man”. <br><br>So it’s no surprise when you see the apple has fallen close to the tree: Dragons back-rower Dean Young is also one tough cookie. <br><br>Dean is uncompromising, tenacious and he knows how to battle through adversity. He is a leader, a competitive individual and occasionally a prankster. But amongst this background of toughness and testosterone it seems people are unaware of Dean’s true backbone of support – the ladies in his life. <br><br>Yep, the son of ‘Albert’ has had the benefit of a former Test footballer in his corner for advice. And he also credits his older brother Brad for some of his competitive nature. But it is a group of very special women who have moulded him into a potential Origin player and future captaincy material for St George Illawarra. <br><br>There is his grandmother Shirley, Craig’s mother and the family matriarch, who is his biggest supporter. Now in her 80s Shirley can tell you more info about Dean than we could ever fit into a Big League, or perhaps even a novel. <br><br>“She is easily his biggest fan,” Dean’s mother Sharon insists. “Even when the kids were all younger (the Young clan comprises four children) and Craig had to work at Unanderra Pub (which he owns), the grandparents were a great support helping me get the kids between sports.<br><br>“But Shirley keeps right up to date with Dean. I have no idea where she gets her info from but she knows it all before anyone else. She follows his career relentlessly and supports everything he does. Her positive energy is a real blessing for Dean and the rest of her grandkids.”<br><br>Sharon, who has been both a football wife and football mother, also deserves plenty of praise for Dean’s rise to stardom.<br> <br>“I have an older brother, an older sister and a younger sister and we all played different sports growing up,” Dean explains.<br><br>“With Dad working so much it fell to Mum a lot to be the taxi service for all of us and just the general support structure. I can’t thank her enough for her efforts back then and now. You don’t really realise a parent’s contribution until you get older and then become a parent yourself. I wouldn’t be me without her.”<br><br>Sharon admits to having fears watching her son take on the same sport her husband spent years getting battered about in, but says she would never stand in the way of her children’s happiness. If Dean had of wanted to be a dancer or actor, something she says he used to like showing off as a youngster, she would have been there for him. <br><br>“Like any mum the only thing about watching now is nerves. You can’t help but worry he might get hurt, especially after the bad run he had with injuries for a while there,” Sharon says, recalling Dean’s battle through a serious knee injury and golden staph infection which came the last time he was pushing hard for Origin selection in 2007.<br><br>“It’s funny because I was never worried watching Craig play, I always figured he was big enough and ugly enough to take care of himself but watching Dean the nerves are higher. He is certainly tough enough, he has proven that time and time again but I guess us mothers just still see them as babies sometimes.<br><br>“In saying that, the last 12 months has filled me with much more confidence. I can’t say exactly why but I just have this feeling he is doing well.”<br><br>The ladies influence doesn’t stop with grandmother, mother and his two sisters; Dean is married to his childhood sweetheart Brooke and they have identical twin daughters. <br><br>Having met Brooke at high school, Dean is a rarity amongst modern footballers, whose fame and fortune can woo the ladies in many ports of call. But Dean is as loyal as they come and has been rewarded with a pair of beautiful daughters. <br><br>“Brooke has been with me from the start and has always been a great support to me,” Dean admits.<br><br>“Her support during the really tough times of 2006 and 2007 was invaluable to me and my mentality. There were times where I must have been really difficult to live with but she helped me unconditionally and that love and support has always meant the world to me.<br><br>“I’m glad I can share the good times with her now, including our two wonderful daughters. Brooke is a fantastic mother to the girls and it makes my life so much easier knowing I can go to work, do my best and come home to a wonderful family atmosphere.”<br><br>At 22 months old, young Sienna and Ellie are a handful, but now provide Dean with even more motivation to bring home a premiership and perhaps a further rep jersey to go with the Country Origin jersey he earned this year.<br><br>“When the girls were born it was by far the best day of my life,” Dean says. “It really put rugby league into perspective. It is a lot of work parenting twins… they say ‘double trouble’ but it is double the fun as well. <br><br>“They have their own personalities already, it seems Sienna is a bit of a ball of energy and tomboy like me and Ellie is more of the girly girl. I just love being a part of their lives.<br><br>“Up till their birth everything with Brooke and I was probably about me as I tried to be a professional sportsperson. Now it’s about the kids, and playing football well is part of that scenario.<br><br>“I guess the ladies in my life are all very special.”<br><br>But what of the talk his time in Origin might be coming for the third game this season? And what about the 2010 Dragons… are they better then the 2009 version that crashed and burned? Typically Young won’t make many bold statements, other than to say he’d love the chance to help the Blues restore state pride. And he thinks the Dragons boys have learned from their errors of last year. <br><br>But maybe the last word should be left to mum. “We all would love to see him play for New South Wales and for sure he could handle it,” Sharon says with pride.<br><br>“When he was 18th man for the Blues in 2006 his grandmother, Brooke, my two daughters and a grand daughter all went down to Melbourne just in case he got on the field. If he makes it in Sydney everyone will make the trip, including the twins, I’d say! <br><br>“We are all very proud of him and what he has achieved and we don’t expect any praise for our role in his life. But I have told Dean I’d really like a red and white Dragons grand final jumper…”<br><br>There are plenty of Dragons fans who’d agree with you, Sharon.
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