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Brother's bond: The 'celebrity coach' inspiring Elliott and the Bulldogs

3:05pm, last Saturday.

A tick under 43,000 at Randwick give the schooner arm a brief, well-earned rest.

Millions more around the world pause too, a collective fortune riding with Hugh Bowman atop Winx as she strode down the straight one last time.

James Elliott stops behind the till of Tathra's newsagency as well, manning the shop on a sleepy afternoon that lasts all weekend in a country town.

"That probably would've led to a meltdown when he was younger," his brother Adam says.

Twenty years ago, James did. Stopped talking for two full years from the age of five, the Elliott clan fearing this was their eldest son's lot in life.

Silently pulling apart alarm clocks and toy cars and reassembling them.

Severe autism making the most complex tasks simple for this big-boned country kid, yet rendering simple social interactions impossible and heartbreaking.

So after Winx has had her last run, Adam fields a call from mum Jeanine, tears down the line.

Bulldogs v Rabbitohs - Round 6

"James had offered to open the newsagents and be there all day running it for them on a Saturday," Elliott beams.

"He worked there for a long time but on the weekend the owners had to take off.

"James is as big as they come with his horses and he would've been looking forward to that for a month or from whenever since it was announced as Winx's last race.

"It was pretty special to know that he was willing to put that to the side, something that was really important for him, to go and help his old boss.

"He knew it sucked, he wanted to watch Winx obviously. But he was still happy to go in and do it, go and help out because he knows that earlier in the piece they helped him out by giving him a job."

James is now 26 and working in an accounting firm in nearby Bega, numbers coming easily to his photographic memory.

His ability to remember every face and name that came through the newsagency "was probably the highlight of some people's days," Adam says.

"Knowing that he's been dealt some cards, but he's a happy-go-lucky fella and he's making the most of it."

Watch James go this Good Friday, making the most of his brother's invitation into the Bulldogs' inner sanctum.

"The assistant coach is back is he? How good," grins Josh Jackson.

Win, lose or draw against the Rabbitohs, James Elliott will be in Canterbury's sheds at full-time.

Giving race tips. Geeing guys up for post-game beers.

"He brushes me," Elliott laughs.

"He's mates with Michael Lichaa, they chat on Facebook and have been friends for a fair while now.

"He loves Josh Jackson, and Aidan Tolman's family, can't get enough of him."

It's a genuine celebrity appearance. Even in the days of SP bookies, porn kings and dubious identities popping up in rugby league sheds, how many dressing room visitors actually have a race named after them?

Race nine at Menangle trots a few weeks back.

The James Elliott Claiming Pace, as Harness Racing NSW dedicated meets at Bathurst and Menangle to mark autism awareness month this April.

A product of Adam's impressive charity work, and his new ambassador role with Autism Community Network.

Not dissimilar to the posts he's held with Giant Steps Autism and the Special Olympics, or fundraising efforts in the wake of last year's bushfires that destroyed 69 homes in tiny Tathra.

Few throw themselves into these volunteer gigs with as much enthusiasm as the 24-year-old back-rower.

"I'd say more young players should take a leaf out of Adam's book and do that sort of stuff," former teammate Josh Morris says.

His old captain James Graham doubles down with intent, the inimitable Englishman knowing no other way.

"I see a lot of quality in Adam," Graham begins.

"The way he'd talk about his brother, I could just see how much it meant to him. Growing up together and their bond, you couldn't tell who was more proud of the other one.

"He's someone who should be admired by the community, he's one of the best I've met in my footballing career, he really is.

"As a person you couldn't ask for more. He'd do anything for the Bulldogs, he'd do anything for his family.

"He's a terrific man Adam and I'd stand by him through pretty much anything.

"He's the type of guy you'd hide a murder weapon for."

Graham doesn't mention it, but memories of Elliott naked, plastered across the pages of The Daily Telegraph, last September linger as the big Brit pays tribute to his old teammate.

Elliott copped a $25,000 fine ($10,000 suspended), the Bulldogs were slugged a record $250,000 (halved on appeal) over his Mad Monday performance.

A decent whack to the wallet, but small change compared to the toll that tabloid saga took on James.

Bulldogs back-rower Adam Elliott.
Bulldogs back-rower Adam Elliott. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

"It really rattled him, it hurt him a lot," Elliott says.

"He was so angry, so frustrated towards the whole thing. He knows who I am, and he knows the work I do with autism ... he's very proud that I love doing that stuff.

"He knows that it's because of him, he's the reason I love doing it.

"It's behind us now and for him it's old news, but at the time it was hard to speak to him for a few weeks.

"That was probably the hardest thing of all."

To see him get so welcomed into the club means the world to me.

Adam Elliott

Just like the rest of the rugby league world, the pair moved on over summer, James making another celebrity appearance when Dean Pay took a pre-trial captain's run to Tathra at Elliott's request in February.

Running water, donning Canterbury kit and copping it from his younger brother's teammates.

"He had it on the calendar from a long way out and [team manager] Freddie Ciraldo got him a full uniform, got him the Bulldogs backpack," Elliott says.

"He was part of the staff as the captain's run, and I love the fact the boys don't take it easy on him.

"They were into him about getting out their quick and they treat him like a normal bloke.

"He loves it, especially that element of it, and it's not like we're playing park footy.

"It's an NRL team and it's a big thing. To see him get so welcomed into the club means the world to me."

James will fly to Sydney on Thursday and navigate his way through domestic airport, the fourth time he's done it solo for his annual Easter pilgrimage.

He'll jump into the Bulldogs' sheds on Friday, the toast of the team.

Saturday the Elliott brothers will head to Randwick. No Winx in sight, just another stop on James's celebrity tour.

Acknowledgement of Country

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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