Overlooked for Game II after making his State of Origin debut for NSW in the series opener two weeks ago, St George Illawarra hooker Dean Young says he is determined to prove coach Ricky Stuart wrong and earn a representative recall.
Also, Young told NRL.com today that having played for the Blues he now understood why many were calling for an adjustment to the representative schedule, revealing the mental focus on Origin was affecting players as much as the fitness side of things.
Informed by Stuart last Saturday that he would be replaced by former Blues captain Kurt Gidley for next week’s must-win clash at ANZ Stadium, Young will instead play a crucial role in a new-look Dragons side when they host the Gold Coast tonight with six players away on Origin duty.
But while the 27-year-old has taken his axing on the chin, he said he was more motivated than ever to show what he is capable of.
“It’s obviously disappointing and I think once you get a taste you’d love to go back,” Young said. “I enjoyed every minute of every day in camp and I think ‘Sticky’ (Stuart) did a wonderful job of bringing us all together.
“But that’s footy. ‘Sticky’ rang me on Saturday and told me that I wouldn’t be there for Game II if Gidley got through. I respect that and I genuinely hope they win on Wednesday night.
“But there is no point talking about it. All you can do is go out there and play your best footy and when another opportunity comes up, you grab it. That’s what I plan to do.”
Young has been a regular in representative sides over the past 18 months – making his Country Origin and Australian Test debuts last year before earning a NSW call-up three weeks ago.
He was given only limited opportunities to impress in the series opener and played second fiddle to first-choice hooker Michael Ennis but Young hopes the experience he has gained in that time will translate to improved performances in the Red V.
“The past 12 months have been good to me – I’ve ticked every box in terms of winning a grand final, playing for my country and state and even playing the City-Country game last year as well, but you’re constantly trying to improve and get better each day,” he said.
“That’s all I do. I love my footy and it is something I’ll never take for granted.”
That experience will come in handy tonight with St George Illawarra fielding a severely weakened team to face the Gold Coast at WIN Jubilee.
The Dragons have named two debutantes for the Titans clash in Daniel Penese and highly rated under-20s back-rower Alex McKinnon (who will play in the centres) while Ratu Peni Tagive, Jake Marketo, Jack Bosden, David Gower and Mitch Rein boast just 13 games between them.
Despite their lack of experience, Young said the newcomers must view tonight’s game as an opportunity and refuted suggestions that the side could struggle in the absence of Jamie Soward, Darius Boyd, Mark Gasnier, Ben Creagh, Trent Merrin and Beau Scott.
“Whoever is getting a game this week has spent the whole pre-season with us and are at training with us every week at the start of the week,” he said.
“They know what’s required, they know what structures Wayne wants defensively and in attack. They feel comfortable with that and therefore they have to bring something to the table.
“We don’t want blokes like Jack Bosden going out there trying to play like Ben Creagh, we want him to play like Jack Bosden. We don’t want Mitch Rein trying to play like Nathan Fien from dummy-half, we want him to play like Mitch Rein. That’s the key.
“It’s about knowing their job – which they do because they’ve been trained to do it all year – and now they get a chance to bring what they’ve got to the table.”
Asked about his own role tonight, Young said it was important that the remaining senior players didn’t try to overplay their hands.
“I think that’s where you can often get yourself into trouble and Wayne spoke about it this week – people have got this idea that when blokes are out you’ve got to go out and do extra and pick up the slack but that gets you away from what you’re good at,” he said.
“Blokes like me and Fiensy and Ben Hornby and Jason Nightingale – we’re in the key positions so we’ll do what we always do.”
Despite being dropped from the NSW State of Origin squad, Young said he was feeling good even allowing for a hectic start to the 2011 season. However, he admitted he agreed with those currently pushing for a change to the representative schedule.
Coach Wayne Bennett was highly critical of the burden placed on his representative players following last week’s golden-point draw against Parramatta and Young is adamant the quality of football was already suffering as a result of the Origin period.
“I’m not really feeling tired at all myself, although I can understand what everyone is saying about it,” he said.
“I only played the one game in Origin but I know that playing a whole series can probably wear you down – not so much physically but mentally because when you’re in camp it’s 24/7 thinking about footy and the game.
“Even when the game is over you’re constantly thinking about could you have done something different. And you’re constantly worried about: ‘Am I going to be in the next side?’ So I can see when you’ve got six weeks of thinking like that 24/7, day in, day out it probably does wear people down.
“It’s something that definitely needs to be looked at. It’s not good. The top players in the game are going to get burned out eventually. Asking them to back up two nights after is pretty tough. I think the game suffers when those Origin players aren’t in the game. They miss two or three games a year during that Origin period and I don’t think it’s really fair to the fans or the club.
“We’re just lucky at the Dragons that Wayne is experienced enough and has coached enough teams that have big numbers in the rep teams to know how to freshen blokes up.
“When they come back he doesn’t give them a lot of video, he gives them a break and tells them to get away from footy. He is right on top of that.”