Young gun Jai Field is shaping as the unlikely kid that could re-ignite St George Illawarra’s attack and save Paul McGregor’s NRL coaching career.
The Dragons may have failed to make the finals of the Auckland Nines, but that didn’t prevent tongues wagging over Field’s scorching exploits in the short format.
The former junior state sprint champ burned some of the NRL’s biggest names at Eden Park, including Manly winger Jorge Taufua in a spectacular 90-metre effort.
Taufua attempted to shield Field back in-field but the 19-year-old instead opted to squeeze through a narrow gap along the sideline.
“I had a couple of metres,” Field said.
“You step and lose you speed, so I just tried to keep going in the speed and get around him which for luckily for me that time I did.”
It was the kind of fast-twitch thinking that could finally bring some sorely needed spark to an attack that only scored more points than Newcastle in 2016.
Field is strongly being considered at halfback for McGregor after first-choice No.7 Drew Hutchison blew his knee during the off-season.
And even though he’s likely to be making his debut well under 80kg, Field knows exactly why McGregor would bring him into the line-up.
“He’s never had an issue with my size. He’s in love with my speed,” Field said.
“He lets me work on my speed and other skills. The weight will come. I started the pre-season at 73kg, so I’ve put on 5-6kg in the pre-season so far.
“Weight-wise I don’t think I’ve had a real issue yet in the nines, it’s a bit more spread out so you can tackle people side on.
“Thirteen-a-side I think it’ll be a bigger test. You have to make more tackles there, get more traffic defending as a half. I’ll wait to see how that step goes.”
Field revealed he had run a 40-metre time of 4.6 seconds in the pre-season, faster than what has previously been clocked for James Roberts and Marika Koroibete.
Michael Jennings and James Tedesco have also been timed at just under five.
“I’ve medalled in state a few times and I was also a nippers sprinter as well. I was doing that, and won medals all over the place for the surf club,” Field said.
“I was naturally fast growing up. When I was little, I was the same size as everyone. But I stayed small so I gave that away when I was racing men with moustaches and big beards when I was 13 years old.”