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Despite what you might have read on the tape across Jamal Idris’ wrist last week, season 2013 isn’t all about ‘revenge’. For the former NSW Blue and Australian Kangaroo who is desperate to reclaim his representative jerseys, retribution is just a small part of this season’s goals.
Last week against the Eels in Mudgee, the hulking centre donned strapping tape on his left hand – and written on it were notes that, according to the Forster boy, keep him motivated when the going gets tough.
“On the top of my tape was ‘revenge’,” Idris, a target of ridicule and criticism in the past and due to play his 100th NRL game this weekend, tells NRL.com.
“That was written because there are a lot of people who are quick to judge you or quick to bag you and quick to say so many negative things about you. Every time I go out there, the best revenge I can give them is to play good and achieve success. I go out there to do that. Every time I’m tired and having a rest, I have a look at the top of my hand.”
The Titans three-quarter, who also had ‘Last game’, ‘Forster’ and ‘Mission’ scribbled underneath his wrist as a reminder of where he’s come from and how fragile a football career can be, is nearing his best form once again. Although it’s come too late for Origin I, the 194cm, 117kg giant is keen to continue playing his finest football, rejoin the Blues and realise other goals, too.
“I want to play Origin and I want to play for Australia – I want to be there,” Idris, who played one Origin in 2010 and one Test for Australia in 2011, says.
“I want to win a premiership, too. People go throughout their career never winning one, but I’m hoping to do it. I’m trying my best every game.”
Lofty goals like those don’t come easily or quickly for the man who debuted for the Bulldogs in 2008. For Idris, moving from the mid-north coast to Sydney and playing rugby league in the big smoke – away from his family and friends – was initially more of a chore than a pleasurable pastime. Without his mum, Alana Simon, and dad, Jerry, he wouldn’t be the famous face we know today.
“The first call I got saying they wanted me to try out for the under-18s Bulldogs, I kinda said: ‘Can I call you back?’” Idris, now revelling on the “relaxed” Gold Coast, says.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play for the junior Bulldogs and I kind of didn’t understand why I was so hesitant. I told mum I’d prefer to go home to Forster with my family, and they said under-18s didn’t go for long. My mum convinced me to give it a crack, just to play under-18s and do the pre-season which I wasn’t used to, so I did that and about four games in they said I could go to the under-20s. I kinda asked “how long does the under-20s go for?” and they said 26 weeks. “Are you serious?” I wanted to go back home... That was my attitude at the time. I was a kid. I was out of my comfort zone.”
His dad also has a particularly significant influence on his football career. The Nigerian-born footy fan’s love of the game has rubbed off on his son – and kept him in rugby league when he felt like giving it away.
“When my dad came over from Africa, he went and watched one game of football and it was a Balmain game – from then he was in love with them,” Idris says.
“When I was two or three he used to buy me all the Balmain gear and he used to take pictures of me in the park in my Balmain gear – and this is an African bloke who’s just come over from Africa and couldn’t speak much English. He’s still got a heavy accent. A lot of people don’t understand how much the game can influence a person, and just because of that it’s changed my entire life. He’s backed me in every sport I’ve played just because of the whole culture of sport in Australia… and told me ‘Whatever you do, I love you’.
“He actually does still follow the Tigers now. He’ll never not follow them. He hopes I play good when I play them – but he gets torn. It’s frustrating. He’s my father, he should hope we win!”
Perhaps Jerry will only be able to follow one team in the finals, though. The Titans, currently sitting sixth on the ladder, have proven one of the surprise packets of the 2013 season. Idris believes they could well be finals bound – even with an inexperienced and largely unproven halves pairing of Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly the ‘experts’ are writing off as finals fodder for the competition’s giants.
“It’s never too early [to get excited]… You need to be there, in the top eight, at the end to give yourself a chance,” Idris says.
“Our team is really determined and I think we’ve been working well together and each week we’re growing as a team. That’s always a goal and if you don’t have a goal of ticking that off, what are you playing for?
“I think it’s quite funny how they say that [about lacking experience] because how do you gain experience? What about Manly – Foran and Cherry-Evans when they won the comp? Did they have experience? How did the experts become experts – they gained experience.”
This week Idris and his Titans teammates continue their quest for glory, taking on the Cowboys at Skilled Park on Sunday. Idris, due to record his largest career milestone to date, literally can’t wait.
“It seems like only yesterday I made my debut,” Idris says.
“I think about where I’m at at the moment and I’m 22 and this is my sixth year in the NRL. I’m coming up this week to my 100th game and when I look back it seems like it’s all just yesterday. Time goes so quickly.
“When I finish my games I get to the dressing sheds and get a little depressed win, lose or draw and what I’m down about is there’s another five or six days I have to wait to run out on the field again. There’s no better feeling than being on that field seeing thousands of fans cheering for you. No matter what you do, every time you get the ball can be a changing moment in the game… I want to keep working on that and becoming the best player I can be.
“Playing well and winning – that’s the best revenge.”