They’ve had the bruise brothers, and now NSW have the Patrician Brothers.
Blues stars Matt Moylan, Bryce Cartwright and Andrew Fifita have never played in the same rugby league team but are still cut from the same royal blue and yellow cloth.
The NSW trio – two of whom will play in the Blues’ must-win State of Origin game in Brisbane on Wednesday – are graduates of Patrician Brothers College in Blacktown, in Sydney’s west.
This league nursery is the alma mater of more than 20 current NRL players.
“I’d be very surprised if there was any other school that could herald that many,” longtime school coach Peter Ross tells AAP.
The school even tries to lay claim to Blues weapon Michael Jennings – arguably the best rugby league export out of the foot of the mountains in the past decade, despite never wearing the school emblem.
While Jennings’ highly rated younger siblings Robert and George honed their games under Ross’s watch, Michael was one of the Brothers’ bitter rivals when he represented St Dominic’s College in Penrith.
Ross says Michael helped put Patrician Brothers on the map.
“He was in the team that won it in ’03 with St Dominic’s at Penrith,” Ross says.
“There’s been a big rivalry ever since but we took great delight in beating them 20-0 in the semi-final in 2012 on their home turf there at Penrith Stadium.
“They were obviously highly ranked that year and that was a real watershed year for us in terms of developing our school into a senior school.
“We were only a junior school up until ’99 so we get the opportunity to keep the kids on now.”
That team in 2012 boasted a number of NRL players, including Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Pauli Pauli and this week’s Sydney Roosters debutant Chris Smith.
But there was no bigger name than the rugby league royalty of Cartwright, nephew of former Kangaroos star John and a player who was always destined for the game’s highest honours.
“Some kids stand out and it’s quite obvious, and there are some that surprise you,” Ross says.
“John Asiata was always a gifted footballer but always carried a little bit of weight. Lo and behold – he wins a title with the Cowboys last year.
“Bryce Cartwright is the one you knew from the word go.”
Moylan, two years Cartwright’s junior, didn’t look like seeing a game.
“I wouldn’t have picked Matty to be playing at the level that he’s playing at the moment,” he says.
“His frame – I wouldn’t have thought he would’ve handled the week-in, week-out rigour of the NRL.
“But I’m very happy for him to prove us wrong in that regard.”
While Moylan and Cartwright were model students, Fifita needed a bit more tough love.
The former Wests Tigers player had numerous brushes with the law in his four years at school before a court finally delivered him an ultimatum – prison or a move to Griffith in southwestern NSW.
It turned out to be one of many turning points in Fifita’s life, and he continues to wear his Patrician Brothers heart on his sleeve.
The Cronulla forward has long volunteered as a coach in the Brothers’ club sides, only for his relationship to end following an ugly incident with officials in 2015 that resulted in a 12-month district ban.
“Ever since I started footy, first grade or not, I’ve always been involved with the club,” he says.
“I love St Pats to death. I’m not allowed back there until July or something, but I’ll do anything for the club.”
Ross says it’s a loyalty that all three of the Blues’ players share.
“Him and Matt Moylan and Bryce, they all come back and do work training and running water for our kids on their off days,” he said.
“That’s the sort of real community feel that we have here. We’re blessed to have the calibre of those kids come down and do that stuff.”
Cartwright says he’s thrilled to have a number of his Patrician Brothers alumni in camp.
“It’s massive if you’re a young kid looking at this team and seeing how many of these guys are from western Sydney.
“It’s such a big nursery and it’s admiring to see how many of us are here,” he said.