When you’re turning 80, the last thing you want is an upstart grandson stealing the show at your party by announcing to everyone he’s been picked by Australia. So Jamal Idris kept his mouth shut.
For once, the 194cm, 115kg Idris was not the centre of attention on Monday morning when Australia and New Zealand paraded their Anzac Test teams before the media at Skilled Park. It was bolters like Jharal Yow Yeh, Gerard Beale and Kade Snowden who hogged the limelight at the beginning of Test week.
Having been picked on the bench despite being primarily an outside back – for a game to be played at his new Gold Coast home ground – Idris would normally be the story of the week. And even with bigger fish to fry for those of us who produce fish and chip paper, he had a great story to tell.
“I actually got told when I was at my Nan’s 80th, back in Forster,” Idris told the media scrum.
He later explained to NRL.com: “I told Nan (Alice May) before she went to bed. She was pretty excited. I didn’t want to tell everybody at her birthday – it was her birthday party, it’s her day, not mine.
“The only ones that knew were my two cousins and my mum.
“Mum drove me down to Newcastle, then I flew from Newcastle to Brisbane, then I drove down from Brisbane to here. Alex Thompson from the Bulldogs planned it. He’s the one that rang me up as well.”
Rep season is a bit like that. Four teams picked in the space of an hour. Rumours flying. Then players flying. The Kiwis got an early march on Australia when Stephen Kearney, FuiFui MoiMoi, Nathan Fien and Jason Nightingale got an exit row on DJ 545 from Sydney to the Gold Coast on Sunday night while Brett Morris, Paul Gallen and Ben Creagh were invading each other’s personal space severely in a single row down the back.
Kade Snowden took it a step further.
The Cronulla prop was in two rep camps yesterday: Country and Australia.
“We were at a hotel in Sydney ... near Kings Cross, the Formule One?” said Snowden. “Not the Formule One, the Crowne Plaza. We were having breakfast and about to hop on a plane (to Albury) and that’s when Laurie (Daley) told me.”
When he finally arrived in camp, Snowden “put on the wrong stuff – he grabbed my jersey” said Idris, adding “It’s a second hand jersey.” Snowden reckoned: “It fit better than this one. His is bigger!”
So Kade, gotta ask you: which phone call was the biggest shock – the one from the Australian selectors or the one from Nathan Tinkler? “Haha – they were both pretty shocking,” said Snowden. “They’re both good and I’m just happy it’s happened to me.”
For the media, it’s a week of getting stories “in the can” for the days ahead when access to players is tightened – and hoping your colleague doesn’t fire off the same story before you do.
For players, it’s a few days of catching up with friends who you’ve not seen for months. When the photographer called for the shortest player first ahead of the Australian team photo, there was a chorus of “off you go, Gal” from the squad.
Paul Gallen stood back to back with Cooper Cronk to settle it. You couldn’t see it Paul, but Cooper was standing on his tippy toes. Johnathan Thurston bet Justin Hodges he could land a banana kick on the crossbar at Skilled Park – and then did it.
Enemies become friends, friends become enemies.
Benji Marshall may have been terrified that Tim Sheens was going to leave Wests Tigers but when they were together in arrivals hall of Coolangatta airport, there was 50 metres separating them and not even the slightest acknowledgement.
The Aussies wore club polos. The Kiwis were in Gen Y street clothes.
The battle lines were drawn – between baggage carousel one and two.
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