How Dom Young is fighting to overcome English outside back hoodoo

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Newcastle Knights young star Dom Young is not a man used to being small. He’s close to 2m tall and weighs in at 107kg, which even by the standards of NRL wingers is really, really big. In fact, he’s just about the biggest in the comp.

In 2021, however, the former Huddersfield Giant might have been forgiven for feeling small: his form went up and down through his first year in Australia, leading coach Adam O’Brien benching him for the last six weeks of the Knights’ season.

His defence was seen as suspect, as was his catching – but nobody doubted his physicality and raw attributes.

Least of all the man himself, despite being on the other side of the world away from traditional support networks.

“I blocked it out,” said Young. “It didn’t get to me too much but it was the first time that I’d had to deal with it. I don’t read into it too much.”

“It was hard not having that family. You can speak to them back home but they’re not there to support you properly.

“I had to lean on my mates and show mental toughness. At the end of the day, I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my own game so I’m not too bothered about the noise outside of it.”

“I want to put that in the past and have a new start this season to show everyone what I’m about.”

Young stands in a long line of Super League products to have a crack at the NRL – Oliver Gildart made his debut just this weekend – but traditionally, outside backs have had a much tougher time of it than their compatriots in the forwards.

Young was bullish, and backed his superior size and speed to help him succeed whether others have failed.

“I want to stop that trend of English outside backs coming over and struggling,” said a confident Young. “I want to be playing every week and impressing.”

“I think it’s my physical attributes that are helping me at the minute; I’m just trying to showcase that every week.”

Young has received a little help along the way – before and after his arrival in Australia.

“I spoke with Jordan Turner who was at Canberra, he was good with me at Huddersfield and helped me out a bit,” said the winger of his preparation for coming to the other side of the world.

“The NRL players there (at Huddersfield) gave me a bit of advice and I definitely took that on board.

“Having that year under my belt going into the season has definitely helped me as well. I’m looking forward to what we can do this year.”

“It’s just having that full pre-season under my belt; I feel a lot fitter than I did last year,”

“I’m kind of used to it now, there’s no surprises, nothing new. I feel like I know what I need to do and what Adzy (Adam O’Brien) and everyone expects from me now so I can just focus on that.

“I guess I learned how the game’s played over here. Obviously it’s a lot different. I just learned what it took to be at this level, the demands on the field and off the field.

“That year has helped me a lot. It’s hard work. I put a lot in this preseason getting the reps in and its help me out.”

Though it is early days, the work appears to be paying off. Young was a standout in Newcastle’s upset victory over the Sydney Roosters at the weekend, scoring a try and dominated one of the NRL’s most established wingers in Daniel Tupou.

His game has drastically improved and, should 2022 continue in the same vein, there is a big carrot at the end in the Rugby League World Cup.

Young, who is eligible for both England and Jamaica, has his sights firmly on the here and now, but knows what rewards are there if he can stay consistent.

“I want to be playing every weekend consistently and I didn’t do that last year, so that’s a big goal of mine,” said Young, born in Yorkshire with grandparents who emigrated from the Caribbean.

“I’m looking forward to the end of the year and I definitely want to be at the World Cup.

“We want to be in the NRL finals – we just knocked off a Roosters team that have some quality players in there.

“We’re not going to get too far ahead of ourselves but at the end of the day, not a lot of people thought we were going to win that game. We’re here to prove a point and make a statement.”

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