BORN AND BRED: Cootamundra product Jack de Belin will proudly represent his hometown when he dons his first Country jumper for Sunday’s City-Country clash at Scully Park, Tamworth. Picture: Steven Siewert
DON’T let the top-knot fool you, or the nose piercings –Dragons workhorseJack de Belin is as country as they come.
League writers Mitch Jennings and Tim Barrow talk NRL and Illawarra Coal League. Video: Robert PeetIt’s why you can’t tell the Cootamundra Bulldogs product that Sunday’s City-Country clash, which has once again been plagued by high profile withdrawals,is meaningless.
Sure it puts the 25-year-old right in the frame to become the first Cootamundra product to play State of Origin for NSW since the legendary Les Boyd, but that’s not why he cherishes his first rep jumper.
It’s because he knows he’s representing a town that, in rugby league and in general terms, is doing it tough.
Earlier this season, just two years after celebrating their Centenary, the Coota Bulldogs were facing a perhaps fatal drop out of the Group Nine competition.
They manged to avoid that fate but the perennial struggle for survival –not unique to Cootamundra –remains ongoing in the bush, as work dries up and more and more young men move away from their hometowns andrugby league –once the lifeblood of rural communities.
It’s something de Belin will be thinking about when he pulls on the Country jersey and takes to Scully Park, Tamworth on Sunday.
“I’m born and bred Cootamundra,I love the place it’s a beautiful town.” de Belin said.
“To be able to get CootaBulldogs names out there through this game is really good especially with all the turmoil the club’s had this year.
“They’ve really struggled to get a side together but they did really well, they’ve pulled together and they’re actually doing not too bad so it’s a credit to the club and credit to all the boys who stuck around.
“I’ve still got a few good mates playing out there and my little brother’s out there playing so shout out to my brother Wilbur. It’sa proud club a strong club and hopefully that tradition keeps living on.”
It’s why de Belin is adamant the yearly fixture –which is subject to an annual debateover it’s relevance must remain on the rugby league calendar.
“Rugby league plays such a massive role in country people’s lives. I know for me personally growing up there there wasn’t a whole lot else to do so you live and breathe footy, you live for the weekend and the chance to play alongside your best mates,” de Belin said.
“Even though playing professionally you’re still playing alongside really good mates, it is differentplaying alongside your school mates and people you hung out with every day of your life.
“It’s what country people live for so to see it disappearing and the numbers dropping down is disappointing but that’s why we’ve got to strengthen it and that’s why this game is so important.”
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