De Belin chases grandfather's Kangaroos jersey
NSW lock Jack de Belin used to sit alongside his pop, a mere foot from the TV, and watch Test cricket for days at a time.
By season’s end, he could emulate the former Kangaroos tourist as just the third grandfather/grandson combination in green and gold Test history.
The St George Illawarra lock has followed in grandfather Fred's footsteps to make it into the first-grade ranks and into the sky-blue of NSW, with a chance at securing, what is these days, a rare series win for the state on Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
With the Dragons finals bound and the 27-year-old middle forward in career-best form, a Test call-up is well within de Belin’s reach when the Kangaroos take on New Zealand in October.
Having beaten out World Cup winners Aaron Woods and Wade Graham for NSW selection, and with Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Jordan McLean sidelined through injury, de Belin is shooting up the Kangaroos' big man pecking order, particularly if the Blues get on top of Queensland in the middle again to claim this year’s Holden State of Origin series.
It would cap a rare rise for the de Belin clan, some 70 years after Fred first toured Great Britain and France with the Australian side in 1948 having claimed NSW honours that year as well.
"I haven't had the time to stop and think about it because I've just been focusing on the Blues, but obviously I'd love to play for my country," de Belin told NRL.com.
"All I can do is put my best foot forward and hopefully I can get selected, but I do feel like I bring the intangibles and the qualities needed to play rep footy.
"You never know what the selectors are thinking or which way they're going to go. There’s been a few different players getting picked at prop (for Australia) in recent years so you never know, but right now my focus is on Origin."
According to rugby league historian David Middleton, the de Belins would be just the third grandfather/grandson pairing to represent NSW and Australia after Arthur Folwell (two Tests, six NSW appearances in the 1930s) and Greg Pierce (eight Tests, six NSW appearances in the 70s), and Arthur Oxford (five Tests, 17 NSW appearances in the 20s) and Gary Stevens (11 Tests, six NSW appearances in the 70s).
Somewhat of a late bloomer who is in the Origin arena for the first time at 27, de Belin is proud of the rich sporting lineage in his family tree.
Fred died when Jack was 15 in 2006, having played in Balmain’s 1946 premiership, later captaining the club and representing his country (eight Tests) and state (10 interstate games).
But it’s not just his grandfather de Belin has followed to the highest level.
"He's got an interesting story, he and his brothers grew up in an orphanage," de Belin said.
"He was from Balmain with his brothers Bill and Jackie. One was an Australian boxer [Bill an unofficial national champ with no title bouts held during World War II], one was a wrestling champion and Pop played for the Kangaroos so it was a pretty strong sporting family.
"I don't know the ins and outs of it but there's a scrapbook of newspaper articles at home that I want to go through and have a look at. [Fred] was a legend, he was quietly spoken and I've never heard anyone say a bad word about him.
"By the time I got to know him he was pretty old ... but he loved his sport and me being obsessed with it as well, that's what we bonded over. We'd sit there all day, watch the Test matches and not say a hell of a lot.
"He was pretty deaf so he used to sit 30 centimetres away from the TV just to hear what was going on.
"I would see his memorabilia around or Dad would talk about his career occasionally. But it was never really one those things that came up which is actually quite humbling knowing that it wasn't ever glorified or in your face all the time.
"Looking back on it now I do wish I'd had taken the opportunity to pick his brain a bit more but it’s still something I’m quite proud of."
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