Chook Napa struts a mean game
Gorden Tallis, alongside over 200 first grade games and two premiership rings, wear his salmon chinos with pride.
If you caught Fox Sports' NRL 360 the other night you would've seen Willie Mason, 27 starts for the Kangaroos and 13 for the Blues, in a camo-print shirt ugly enough to put a house of mirrors out of business.
And the greatest big boppa of them all, Arthur Beetson, once refused to attend a function for the unveiling of the Team of the Century in 2008 – in which he was named starting prop – because he preferred to wear his stubby shorts and double- pluggers rather than the expected penguin suit.
Some of the most-feared enforcers in the game have also been responsible for a few of the rugby league’s bigger fashion faux pas, and according to his teammates down at Moore Park, you can chalk young Rooster Dylan Napa up for a strike or two in both columns.
“He's been a redhead his whole life… maybe that's why he wears all the weird clothes,” muses Chooks prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves.
Peruse the upstart bookend’s social media accounts and cop an eyeful of double denim, leopard-print evening wear, sleeveless floral numbers and a fedora or two for your troubles. Ask Napa where on God’s green earth he sources his wardrobe and he coyly responds: “Surry Hills… but don’t tell everyone my spots or they’ll steal all my stuff.”
“He loves going to Vinnies and second-hand shops, and then he rocks up in some of the most outrageous outfits you’ve ever seen,” fellow front-rower Sam Moa says with a shake of his head.
“He’s got a wicked dress sense; one day he thinks he’s from the '80s, the next he thinks he’s a hippy,” laughs Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
“He’s from Bondi, he’s definitely a Bondi Hipster; he carries on and has the boys in stitches all week.”
Quick as bunnies when it comes to bagging the 21-year-old’s fashion sense, his senior teammates are just as swiftly onto the front foot in lauding Napa’s approach to the game – typically about as subtle as a fish hook in each nostril.
“I can’t remember seeing anyone rip in with the type of aggression he has from such a young age,” says Moa. “It’s a trait you can’t really train and he’s got that hard edge about him.
“It’s just part of his character and it’s great to have him in the team – a young firebrand like him.”
As memorable as the young Queenslander’s first forays into the NRL last year were – international props James Graham and Paul Gallen won’t be forgetting the thunderous hits Napa landed on them in 2013 any time soon – it’s just as easy to forget the flame-haired tyro has played just 20 games at the top level.
In the aftermath of the Roosters' clash with the Bulldogs a month ago, a match that had the rugby league world wincing as two of the best packs in the business ripped into each other like a pair of starved street dogs, Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the premiers' star-studded forwards contingent had not “gone to the edge” enough in 2014.
Waerea-Hargreaves, who has picked up a thing or two about this rough-and-tumble caper over the years, says Napa is one Rooster who has no problem getting himself to ‘the edge’ that Robinson wants his charges playing if not on, then at least near.
“’Naps’ is always ready to go, you don't have to say too much to him,” says Waerea-Hargreaves.
“Most redheads they've got a switch, he just flicks it and he's been unreal when he gets out there. He's been around us a few years now and he knows what we do.
“He's full of energy every day and he's really come through in the last month or two and been great for us.”
And just like The Raging Bull in his chinos, Willie in his camo and big Artie in anything but a suit and tie, Napa flies in the face of the perception that you need to look good to produce the goods.
Flying at a cruising speed of about 100 miles an hour. More often than not, directly into the opposition. For whom Moa has the final word on his young teammate, and it’s a daunting one at that.
“He’s got that hard edge you need, and he’s only going to get better as long as he works hard on his game.
“He’s six foot four, an absolute monster, and he’s going to be a scary force in a few years.”