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Lam, Bailey savour special occasion after contrasting paths to NRL

Lachlan Lam phoned his father, Adrian, in England from WIN Stadium after playing in the Roosters No.7 jersey he wore during his illustrious career for the first time.

Meanwhile, rookie teammate Max Bailey was apologising to friends he’d had to recall tickets so that his family members could witness his NRL debut.

The contrasting post-match scenes for the Roosters rookies on Thursday night typified the very different paths Lam and Bailey had travelled before becoming part of a squad on track to become the first club in the NRL era to win three successive grand finals.

Lam has seemed destined for an NRL career after representing Australian schoolboys and playing for Papua New Guinea at the 2017 World Cup, whereas Bailey was preparing to play this season with the Thirroul Butchers until receiving a surprise call from Roosters coach Trent Robinson.

“About six or seven weeks ago I was planning on playing for the Butchers in the Illawarra comp for free and then the [North Sydney] Bears started up,” Bailey said.

“I trained a week with the Bears and the next thing Robbo called me to say he wanted to bring me into the squad.

“That was a few weeks ago and now here I am playing NRL. It is pretty surreal.”

Roosters rookie Max Bailey had his own cheer squad against the Dragons.
Roosters rookie Max Bailey had his own cheer squad against the Dragons. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

Bailey joined the Roosters full time squad a month ago, while Lam has been playing as an interchange utility, but Thursday night was just as memorable for the 22-year-old, whose father made 146 appearances for the club and now coaches Wigan.

“It is the first time I have worn the No.7 since I was 18, it was good fun and it was really good to do that considering he wore that number as well,” Lam said.

“It has never really been about chasing that number or doing the same thing my dad did but I guess along the way if those things happen it is really cool. I just spoke to him briefly after the game and he was happy for me.”

With the match in Wollongong, Bailey’s family turned out in large numbers to watch the 23-year-old forward make his NRL debut after advancing from the Butchers first grade team to North Sydney and now the Roosters.

“I got told yesterday that I could have 40 tickets so it was a bit of a scramble and I actually got a bit excited and over-invited,” he said.

“I had to message a few people and say sorry, I didn’t leave enough tickets for my family.

“To debut at WIN Stadium with all my family and friends here, you just couldn’t script it any better and to walk over and see them at the end is something I will never forget.”

While some St George Illawarra fans were questioning after the 24-16 loss how the club had let Bailey slip through their grasp, he never stood out in junior representative teams.

Match Highlights: Dragons v Roosters

“I actually struggled a bit in under 20s and I think the biggest thing for my career was playing against men in first grade for the Butchers,” he said.

“I was only 18 playing grade and I think that helped me develop a lot.

“I really think that got me used to that tough style of footy against blokes that have played a lot of footy and know what they are doing.

“In my first two years of NSW Cup I still struggled a bit and then last year I really flourished under Jason Taylor and Ben Gardiner [at Norths]. That is when I realised I could play NRL.”

For Lam, there has always been an expectation that he would make it in the NRL and Roosters great Brad Fittler, who partnered Adrian Lam in the halves for the club and was a member of the Nine commentary team on Thursday night said he felt a sense of déjà vu watching Lachlan play halfback.

“It is funny how these things happen,” Lam said.

“It happened quite a bit growing up and I have been lucky enough to have a few special occasions like that, and this was one of them.”