Record number of Aboriginal players for Kangaroos (Spasifik)

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IT WAS fitting that Jamal Idris learnt of his rise to Australian international at a family gathering on the Aboriginal mission in Forster where he grew up. His selection has helped give the Kangaroos the greatest representation of indigenous players in history.

With Brisbane winger Jharal Yow Yeh also called up to make his Test debut, the Australian team to play New Zealand on Friday night boasts six Aboriginal players – surpassing the previous record of five during the 2008 World Cup.

”There is a first for everything,” Idris said of his selections with Yow Yeh, Johnathan Thurston, Greg Inglis, Justin Hodges and Sam Thaiday. ”It is really good. There is a bit of a buzz about the fact that it is the most indigenous guys ever in an Australian team. We get along with each other as well so it is great.”

Before receiving a phone call last Saturday night from a Canterbury official, Idris had hoped to be playing for Country against City in Albury on Friday, with Test selection a future goal but not one the 20-year-old had expected to achieve this season.

At the time, Idris was celebrating his grandmother Mae Simon’s 80th birthday with extended family members at the Cabarita mission where he spent much of his childhood.

”When I thought about it, it was pretty ironic because that was the place where I started,” Idris said. ”Everyone was there my mum’s 11 brothers and sisters, and there were over 25 grandchildren. I actually didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want to take the moment away from my Nan. I told a few of them, and they were all stoked for me. Everyone was pretty excited.”

Idris has represented Australia before in athletics and was part of the national team that competed in the World Youth Championships staged in the Czech Republic in 2007 – the year he joined the Bulldogs.

But he said the honour of playing for the Kangaroos on the Gold Coast, where he will move at the end of the season to take up a five-year deal with the Titans, surpassed anything he had achieved before.

”To be honest, it still hasn’t sunk in,” he said. ”I was with my family yesterday, and when I found out I had to basically come straight down to Newcastle and fly from Newcastle to Brisbane and then drive to the Gold Coast so I haven’t slept yet.

”It was a goal of mine but I wasn’t thinking of this year, I was thinking in the next few years. Never in my wildest dreams could I picture that it would happen this year.’

Idris said he would also remember his Test debut for the opportunity to play alongside Australian captain Darren Lockyer in what could be his final Test.

Lockyer has announced his retirement at the end of the season but is yet to decide whether he will make himself available for the October 16 Test against New Zealand in Newcastle and the Four Nations tournament in England and Wales.

”To play with Darren Lockyer is something I will look back on in the future as being a highlight because he is the greatest player in the game,” Idris said. ”It is like when I played with Hazem El Masri at the Bulldogs.”

After being named on the bench, Idris is expected to be used on Friday night as a back-rower and it is understood NSW coach Ricky Stuart is considering a similar role in this year’s Origin series – but centre, where he played in the All Stars match, remains his preferred position.

Coincidentally, it might have been that game that helped propel Idris and Yow Yeh into the Test side, with Matt Francis – the manager of the inaugural Indigenous All Stars team and one of the driving forces behind the concept – saying it had fast-tracked their selection.

”I certainly think they would have had a representative career but I think it helped because they showed in that match that they could play in that type of company,” he said.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/never-in-my-wildest-dreams-idris-mission-accomplished-20110502-1e566.html#ixzz1LFM03OE0

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/never-in-my-wildest-dreams-idris-mission-accomplished-20110502-1e566.html#ixzz1LFLqyMfF

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