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News From ball boy to the NRL: This Bulldog’s blood is as blue as they come

Discussion in 'Bulldogs Discussion' started by beastwood89, Feb 14, 2020.

  1. beastwood89

    beastwood89 Kennel Enthusiast

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    Every NRL debut is special and every player has a story of how they got there.


    Brandon Wakeham is eyeing off the spot left vacant in the Bulldogs starting side by injured playmaker Kieran Foran.
    Brandon

    Some stories are heart-wrenching as young players have to overcome hardships and other stories are heartwarming.

    Brandon Wakeham’s story is the latter.

    The 21-year-old made his NRL debut for the Bulldogs last season and is now in the race to lock down a regular halves spot in the injured Kieran Foran’s absence.


    But before he became a professional NRL player, this rising star was a Bulldogs superfan and he was a ball boy during the club’s strongest season since their premiership-winning 2004 season.

    “I was the ball boy when I was younger. My older brother did it first and then I did it for a bit. I think 2012 was my last year, I was the ball boy at the grand final. They lost but it was still a pretty good experience to be on the sideline,” Wakeham told foxsports.com.au.

    “The grand final was crazy and that was when Ben Barba had his freakish year as well so almost every week I watched him from the sideline.”

    One of 10 siblings, Wakeham’s entire family are Bulldogs supporters. The blue and white runs so deep in their blood that Wakeham didn’t get to choose who he would support.

    “It wasn’t an option in my family to support a different team.

    “I was born into it, everyone in my family is a diehard Bulldogs fan and growing up in the area as well I didn’t want to support anyone else anyway.”


    The Chester Hill junior has experienced things only the diehards and locals have like the iconic Burwood Road, Belmore covered in blue and white when the Bulldogs are in the finals.

    A 10-year-old Brand Wakeham in his Chester Hill Hornets Division colours.

    “I went down Burwood Road in 2014 a few times in the grand final week. It’s crazy how they shut down the street.

    “The amount of supporters the Bulldogs have is crazy. We need to get back to our winning ways so the supporters come out and cheer for us.”

    Wakeham has only three NRL games under his belt but his name has become more recognisable since landing a Golden Boot nomination after impressive performances in all three of Fiji Bati’s Test matches last year.

    The likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Damien Cook, Payne Haas and John Batemen were also nominated but ultimately Tuivasa-Sheck won the prestigious award.

    A Golden Boot nomination is something worth boasting about but Wakeham was humble as pie when asked about it.

    Brandon Wakeham put on a stellar performance for Fiji in the Test match against Papua New Guinea Kumuls.

    “It’s pretty cool but I just like playing I don’t care about getting nominated. I just try to have as much fun as I can and try to get the team over the line to hopefully win – that’s all I care about.”

    The proud Fijian was always on Bulldogs coach Dean Pay’s radar but Wakeham believes it was his first game for Fiji that gave him the confidence boost he needed to get his NRL debut.

    “Being in the camp I didn’t know what I would get out of it but it made me so much more confident.

    “When you go into that camp it’s not like a footy camp it’s sort of like going into a room with 20 of your best mates and just hanging out and having fun on the field come game day.

    “I just got confidence out of that and especially being around the senior players in the Fiji team who have done a lot in the NRL they just gave me the confidence I needed to perform.

    “I’m happy and stress free when I’m playing in the Fijian jersey and I think that showed after I played the first game. I came back to the Bulldogs with so much confidence and I think that’s what helped me get my first start in NRL.”


    Wakeham’s Round 15 debut came as a shock to him and Bulldogs fans.

    He was on his way to ANZ Stadium to play in the Canterbury Cup match when he got a phone call from Pay. He was taking Rhyse Martin’s spot on the bench after he was granted a release from his contract and did not play.

    Originally he was going to play as a bench utility but when Foran got injured Wakeham was thrown straight into the deep end lining up in the halves right opposite Sharks superstar Shaun Johnson.


    “I was just so nervous for the first game, I was honestly scared.

    “I was marking up against Shaun Johnson and every time he touched the ball I just thought they were going to score because I was so nervous. But the whole day happened in an instant, it was so quick.”

    Wakeham can easily recall how nervous he felt during the three games he played in last season but says the experience has taught him plenty.

    “I was so nervous with all three of the games I did take a lot out of them though. There were things that I know now that I need to work on during the game, like little things that have a big impact on a game.”

    Growing up Wakeham loved all of the Bulldogs players but he particularly idolised Kieran Foran who he watched rise to stardom playing for Manly.

    Fast forward to know and it’s Foran’s spot that Wakeham is pushing to get while the seasoned playmaker recovers from a shoulder injury that could keep him sidelined for the entire 2020 season.

    Wakeham is chuffed to be training with his rugby league hero and has a great deal of respect for how he pushes through his injuries.

    “It’s pretty cool. Watching him at Manly and how tough he was but seeing him get injured for the last however many years it’s pretty sad to see.

    “To see him being injured for so long and the way he turns up to training every day and tries his hardest to get better, try to get himself back on the field even after everything it’s pretty crazy what he does.”

    Although nothing has been confirmed yet, Lachie Lewis looks the most likely to take one spot in the halves. The other is a battle between Wakeham and Jack Cogger.

    Despite the hunger for that starting spot, Wakeham says there’s no friction between them.

    “Nothing is awkward between us. Ever since he’s come to the club he’s really helped me out and I watching how professional he is. We don’t talk about it.

    “Me, Jack (Cogger) and Lachie (Lewis) are always trying to help each other out and give each other tips on what we can do better. We’re always kicking after training and doing our extras together.”


    Wakeham and Cogger will get a chance to show Pay what they can do in this weekend’s NRL Nines tournament.

    Pay hasn’t given any indication to Wakeham on whether there’s a spot for him in the first grade squad but he has encouraged him to continue working hard and use the upcoming trial games as an audition.

    “(Dean Pay) just told me to keep training hard, keep trying to do my best every day and go as hard as I can in the trials because there’s a spot open there.

    “Hopefully I get it but if not I’ll just keep trying hard to hopefully get it throughout the year.”

    In terms of career goals, Wakeham can already tick off representing his country. Now he has his eyes on becoming a regular first-grader and a Bulldog for life.

    “To get a first grade spot and nail my spot there, I want to play first grade consistently and I want to be at the Bulldogs for my entire career because I’ve supported them my whole life.

    “It would be weird for me to go to any other club, I can’t see myself being in different colours. When I play with the Bulldogs I hate every other team so to go elsewhere and play the Bulldogs it would be weird.”
     
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  2. c-b-b

    c-b-b Super Moderator Staff Member Gilded Premium Member

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    Top kid, best of luck to him.

    I can see Pay going with Cogger (as he signed him) but I really hope he goes with what's best for the team.
     
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  3. Tassie Devil

    Tassie Devil Previously Slovenia Steve

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    Damn. Good read that. Let's hope that he really kicks on and leaves Pay no other choice.
     
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  4. _G-Dog_

    _G-Dog_ Kennel Immortal

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    Hope he can be our next longterm half.. Definately has XFactor which cant be coached..
     
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  5. Scoooby

    Scoooby Kennel Immortal Gilded Premium Member

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    Bloody oath, this guy and this is just myself going off to early lol, he will be a star and a shining light, can’t wait to watch him progress...!!
     
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  6. Dogs2004

    Dogs2004 Kennel Regular

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    love this "When I play with the Bulldogs I hate every other team "
     
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  7. Tassie Devil

    Tassie Devil Previously Slovenia Steve

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    That's the one thing I didn't like.

    He should hate every other team all the time. When he's at the shops. He hates every other team. When he's at the beach. Every other team. When he's on the shitter. Every other team. We need more commitment to hating every other team from these players. They just breed them too soft these days.
     
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  8. Baseball Furies

    Baseball Furies Kennel Enthusiast

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    Fantastic read, has the ultimate pedigree for success, hopefully he gets some extended time to show his ability.

    Also, 10 siblings!!! That’s a busy Bulldogs household right there!!!

    This may be the silver lining to Foran getting injured...
     
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  9. Spoonman84

    Spoonman84 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hopefully he’s been in the gym all off season to strengthen his body the only things that can hold him back are his size and injuries. He has the most natural talent out of all the young halves we have and if he gets constant footy this year he’s going to be very hard to keep out of the side.
     
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  10. speedy2460

    speedy2460 Kennel Enthusiast

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    He has to earn his spot. Hes been good so far but needs to be better. I think Cogger has more to offer at this stage.
     
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  11. Spoonman84

    Spoonman84 Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I think every half has to earn their spot. No one out of Lewis, Cogger and Wakeham have done enough in first grade to be a walk up start.
     
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  12. youoboys

    youoboys Banned In the Sin Bin

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    Bulldogs fan here: time to rise kid it’s your time!!
     
  13. NPC83

    NPC83 Kennel Regular

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    We seem to be getting a bit of air time with the media... good article though.
     
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  14. Baseball Furies

    Baseball Furies Kennel Enthusiast

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    I agree mate, I think the same with Averillo also, looks like he needs a bit more muscle...

    That will come I’m sure.
     
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  15. gazza

    gazza Kennel Enthusiast

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    Wakeham half and Lewis 5/8. Should be done and dusted. Cogger can be back up on the bench.
     
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  16. albatross

    albatross Kennel Regular

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    Agree with Lewis and Wakeham to start. Bench utility will be interesting if JMK isn't fit. Katoa will start at dummy half but I don't think Cogger can handle the defence in the middle if he's needed for big minutes (unless Lewis went to hooker?).
     
  17. Bad Billy

    Bad Billy Kennel Immortal

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    You’re right. It should be Lewis who’s under pressure.
     
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  18. Howard Moon

    Howard Moon Kennel Immortal Gilded x2 Gilded Premium Member

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    My thinking re Cogger - what sorta ceiling do we think he has? I mean I hope for his own sake that he can be great.. but I just worry that he doesn't have the right attributes for that.. no X Factor, doesn't do things at pace, not a great kicking game.. you can't just be a reliable player and taste real success
     
  19. Howard Moon

    Howard Moon Kennel Immortal Gilded x2 Gilded Premium Member

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    Lewis might have had a very poor start to last year but he has still offered more than Cogger has during both their times in FG.. has more try assists and has also been the difference in many games with his defence
     
  20. Alan79

    Alan79 Kennel Immortal

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    That article was a pretty good read. It's nice to hear that he's got that deeply ingrained passion for the club. And I hope that when he gets a regular chance to claim a spot in the top 17 that he's ready because the fans can be pretty harsh if he doesn't instantly live up to the hype. That's part of the reason I won't be upset if he isn't part of our halves combination in round 1. He's still a rookie and it might be beneficial for him to get the chance to get into form before being thrown in the deep end.
     
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