Whether fighting for a representative jersey or the rent from his brother, Luke Douglas is pretty good at keeping his cool. The 24-year-old star front-rower is a leading contender for a spot in the Blues side to be picked in a few weeks, but he quickly pulled Big League into line when asked if there was some friendly banter about joining his brother as a NSW representative.
“He knows I’m boss,” Douglas jokes about younger brother Kane, who plays for the Waratahs in the Super 15 rugby. “He lives with me and pays stuff-all rent so he does what I tell him to. He’s just started paying me $100 a week now, that’s all he pays! He’s all right, though, he knows I’m boss.”
Douglas continues to be tossed up as a candidate for Origin selection but is keeping a level head about his chances. The Yamba Eagles and Lower Clarence Magpies junior has played every match since his debut in 2006 – 128 games straight – and has been one of the club’s most consistent and reliable players in a star-studded pack.
He admits it’s good to be considered a contender but is quick to play down his form. It’s clear he sets higher standards than most and Douglas says he will need to lift his game if he’s to be given a shot at the big time. First goal: make Country Origin, and then see what happens from there.
“I’m not doing much wrong, but I know I can play better. It’s good to always be thought about but I probably haven’t played as well as I would have liked to.
“In these next few weeks I’m just going to rip in and my goal at the moment is to get a game in that Country Origin side.
“I haven’t played any real representative footy. There’s a few good front-rowers, especially from Country. It’s definitely in the back of my head.”
He had a small taste of Origin when he was named 18th man for Game Three last year and was part of NSW coach Ricky Stuart’s Blues in Waiting camp earlier this year – an experience he says was a big motivation for his representative push.
“As a New South Welshman it was awesome to be a part of [Game Three], even though I was only in camp for a couple of days and they lost. Even when I went to that Blues in Waiting camp, the passion that ‘Sticky’ [Stuart] and the coaching staff have, it’s unbelievable. Anyone who gets a gig will really relish that opportunity.
“Obviously the Blues have put in a group that will one day represent NSW and I think that’s what [Ricky] wanted to get. Just the passion and pride that Sticky has and we had a couple of guys come and talk to us as well. Paul Gallen came and spoke to us and I love playing with him. He’s that passionate about playing for NSW and working towards beating Queensland.”
Stuart is on record as being a big fan of Douglas and – assuming the selection process hasn’t changed since last year – he’ll ultimately have the final say on whether the player he coached for three-and-a-half years will get a run.
If his most recent game is any guide – he ran 136 metres, made three tackle-busts and 47 tackles against the Knights – he might get his wish.
The pair spoke at the Blues in Waiting camp but Douglas says Stuart wasn’t giving much away, though he did have some parting advice.
“He just said to keep working on the little things in my game that he knows I need to fix up to try to push my claims.
“He’s a pretty busy guy and I’m a bit of a shy guy so I haven’t spoken to him too much. We went from seeing each other every day to [not], so it was good to catch up and have a yarn. He spoke to all the front-rowers who were there as a group and said there were plenty of opportunities for us all.”
In the meantime, a possible Country Origin jersey awaits and Douglas remains philosophical about his chances of further representative honours.
“I’d love to get a go at Country,” he says, “and anything can happen after that.”