BALLINA BOYS TO MAKE NRL DEBUT
By ADRIAN MILLER
IT'S THE dream of pretty much every kid running around the backyard with a rugby league football under his arm: The hope of one day playing in the National Rugby League.
Growing up in Ballina, Mitch and James Aubusson were no different.
This weekend the pair will make the dream a reality when they make their NRL debuts.
James, 20, will play his first game off the bench for the Melbourne Storm, most likely playing at hooker, while Mitch, 19, will follow in the footsteps of one of the game's greatest, Brad Fittler, after he was handed the fiveeighth role for the Sydney Roosters.
The Aubussons are the latest in a long line of Northern Rivers league players to make it to the world's toughest competition, and their parents, Brian and Lyn, who will fly to Melbourne and Sydney for the games, couldn't be happier.
"We're very proud and really happy for them," Lyn said.
"It's taken them a couple of years of hard slog to have an opportunity to cement their positions and I can't wait to see them run out.
"We were hoping it would be both at the same time and I can't think of a better way for it to happen."
Taking a look back over their careers so far, it's not a big surprise that they'll make their debuts in the same week.
Both left for Sydney at the age of 17, they played in the Combined Catholic Colleges, NSW and the Australian Schoolboys teams, and were also involved in the Australian Institute of Sport rugby league program.
James was even contracted at the Roosters before moving to Melbourne in 2005.
"They've always been very competitive with everything," Lyn said.
"Just like two brothers they used to fight like cats and dogs.
"Since they've grown up they are still very competitive with everything they do, but they have that mutual respect and they rely on each other."
And there's no doubt there'll be gentle ribbing between the two about the weekend.
"James would say he's first (to debut) because he plays on Friday and Mitch not until Monday, but they'll have a laugh with each other about it," Lyn said.
While ecstatic that his sons have realised a dream, Brian is more impressed with how they have handled it.
"Both are good footballers, but it's more important to us that they are good blokes," he said.
"They are gloriously unaffected by this and have never been bigheaded."
And with Brian supporting the Canterbury Bulldogs, will there be any conflict in the house?
"I've barracked for the Bulldogs since North Sydney were thrown out of the comp, so I prefer to be objective rather than subjective," he said.
And what will happen if they square off against each other?
"I don't know what it will be like if that happens," Lyn said.
"It's only happened once before when James played for Marist Brothers and Mitch played for Ballina, but that was different.
"What a wonderful situation to be in."
Turn to page 43 for your full-
colour NRL 2007 season draw.