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DALY Cherry-Evans has a "lifetime contract" with Manly and now an AFL convert in his first pre-season with Penrith has a similar goal in mind.

The only problem is he's 25 years old and has never played an NRL game.

But it's not what you might think. Josh Hall is looking further ahead than his professional sporting career.

The former AFL player and elite high jumper is in the midst of his first rugby league pre-season, having signed with the Panthers last year from the Gold Coast Suns.

He's training with the NSW Cup squad but is hopeful of making his NRL debut this year, completing a long-time dream of the rabid rugby league fan.

"I just wanted to play, that was my first goal, to play a game of league and see how I go," Hall told


Hall grew up playing rugby league but turned his attention to high jumping as a teenager, which led him to a World Youth Championships bronze medal in 2007.

His sporting journey took another twist when he was doing some part-time physio work with an Australian football club in Queensland five years ago, and was asked to fill in for the team one weekend.

A handful of games later and Hall was contacted by the Gold Coast Suns, asked to have a run in reserve grade, and ended up playing seven AFL games for the club.

He continued to dabble in high jumping — narrowly missing selection for the 2010 Commonwealth Games — but was now a full-fledged professional footballer.

Titans coach Neil Henry met with Hall midway through last year to discuss a potential code switch, but it wasn't to be.

Instead it was a chat to Penrith boss Phil Gould which lured Hall south on a two-year deal with the Panthers.


Hall started pre-season with the NRL squad but within a few weeks was back training with the reserve graders.

New Panthers coach Anthony Griffin had pinpointed some areas for improvement and decided it better to go back to learn some fundamentals of the game.

"I spoke to him (Griffin) in the pre-season, he was the one I went to and he said I've just got to work on my ball skills and defensive stuff," Hall explained.

"For me, I know within myself, defensively I've got to work pretty hard. I'm a bit lighter than most of the boys.

"But playing touch footy growing up I know my attack is there, I just need to learn the game and learn the structures.

"If I can learn the structures and get better defensively I think I'll be fine."


Hall had hoped to be included in the club's Auckland Nines squad but the coaches wanted to give him a feel for the 13-a-side game.

Instead, he was put on a plane bound for Papua New Guinea where a mixture of NSW Cup members and players returning from injuries played against the PNG Hunters.

The result didn't matter — Panthers won 20-12 — but the game was to give Hall a new appreciation for rugby league.

In front of 15,000 vocal Port Moresby locals, Hall scored his first rugby league try in nearly a decade.

"It was a very life changing experience, going up there," Hall said.

"It's not just a game to them, they're so passionate and it's a way of life to them.

"They loved it, and for me to go up and play my first game in front of so many passionate fans, the new stadium was 15,000 people, it was up there with the top moments in my life."

Hall played on a wing and scored just before half time when Jamie Soward threw a cut-out ball to put Hall one-on-one with his opposite number.

He stepped his opponent and dived over the line, much to the delight of his new teammates.

"A lot of the boys have said they were pleasantly surprised with how I went on the weekend and think I'm progressing quicker than they thought so hopefully that's a good sign," he said.


Hall would love to play an NRL game this year but knows it won't be easy to squeeze into Penrith's top 17.

Still, if his progress continues as rapidly as it has done to date, anything is possible.

Playing football isn't the only thing on the horizon for the 198 centimetre tall winger.

Hall has studied clinical exercise science and, in between juggling three different sports professionally, has dabbled in physio work.

He's started working with some of Penrith's trainers and medical team, with an eye to taking on more work with the club down the track.

"I'm helping the SG Ball guys out with their rehab program which is good. I'm trying to get into the club and help out as much as possible," he said.

"For me, the dream would be to work in a club like the Panthers or any sporting club after footy.

"That's where my heart is, I've been in elite sport since I did high jump at the age of 13.

"If I can stick around in this business I think I've got something to offer."

So even when Hall's playing days come to an end, he has no intention of leaving Penrith, or professional sport.

He plans to stick around for a long time yet.

This story first appeared on 


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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