Dragons rookie Tyrell Sloan has drawn inspiration from messages he received before and after his NRL debut from NSW Origin stars Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton.
Sloan, who made his debut in St George Illawarra’s round 15 defeat of Canberra, revealed that Wighton had reached out to him before the match – even though he was on the opposition side – and spoke to him on the field.
Addo-Carr and Mitchell also sent him messages of support and Sloan said he took confidence from knowing that three of the NRL’s superstars were backing him.
"It is crazy. I didn’t expect it, especially Jackie Wighton," Sloan said. "I was versing him that day and he said, ‘I’ll see you on the field’.
"We had a scrum and Jackie Wighton said ‘congratulations’ during the game. I was like 'far out, this guy is actually talking to me'. They are superstars of the game and it is just crazy to have their support."
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The 19-year-old, who also revealed he had been studying the way Billy Slater defended in the fullback role, met Addo-Carr while playing at the NSW Koori Knockout and the pair have remained in contact. Mitchell is another idol for the proud Wiradjuri man.
"Me and Foxxy have been in contact for a couple of years now. He is always been in my corner," Sloan said.
"He plays wing and I have played a bit of wing, so I try to mimic his game, which is obviously hard to do because he is one of the best.
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"He just sent a simple message, ‘good luck on your debut. Good luck out there and do your thing.’ I didn’t speak to Latrell until after the game. His was the same, ‘you killed it out there’.
"They were all just simple ones but for them to message me meant a lot.
"They are important people in my life, I get to speak to them quite a few times over social media and stuff. I guess when the bubble is over or whenever we have spare time, I would like to catch up with them guys."
Sloan, who had more than 80 family and friends on hand to watch him score a try in his debut at WIN Stadium, prepared for his first NRL pre-season by training with Sydney Swans star James Bell, who introduced him to Adam Goodes.
The hard work is beginning to pay off as the Dapto Canaries junior is now considered St George Illawarra’s long-term fullback option after the decision not to offer Matt Dufty a new contract.
His grandmother Colleen, who raised him, presented Sloan with his jersey before his debut and was in tears when he ran to her in the grandstand at fulltime.
I was like 'far out, this guy [Jack Wighton] is actually talking to me'Dragons rookie Tyrell SLoan
"Nan was just crazy emotional," he said. "With everything she has done, that is how I wanted to repay her. I couldn’t do it with anything else but making my debut. She didn’t really say much, she just cried happy tears."
Dufty's return from a shoulder injury, along with suspended forwards Josh McGuire and Tyrell Fuimaono, has resulted in Sloan missing out on a spot for Friday night's match against the Warriors at Central Coast Stadium.
However, Sloan is thrilled to be part of the Dragons squad and he said coach Anthony Griffin wanted him to focus on his defence.
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"First grade is the goal and I want to play but I am happy with whatever decision Hook makes," he said.
"I am still getting used to the fullback role, I have got a lot to learn and Duffo has been heaps good to me.
“Hook said to me if you are playing No.1 at this club under me you have to be the best defensive player and I have actually been looking at some video of Billy Slater because he was one of the best in the fullback role."