Young Chris off to the big smoke
By STEVE SPINKS
TWO years ago, Chris Farrell was playing rugby league with Group One second division team Evans Head.
Next year the 19-year-old will line up with National Rugby League club St George Illawarra in their Jersey Flegg side (Under-20s).
It's a big transition.
But his former coach at Lismore Marist Brothers, Craig Hodges, believes Farrell is up to the challenge.
Farrell broke into the Brethren's first-grade side in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League last season and proved to be a revelation.
His size, mobility and durability went a long way to helping the Rams make the preliminary final.
In fact, the teenager was the player of the match in Brothers' semi-final victory over Cudgen.
Hodges, who has close links with Dragons coach Nathan Brown, kept an eye on Farrell's development during the season.
"I was talking to Craig Young (former Dragons and Australian prop forward) earlier in the year and told him how well Chris had been playing and training," Hodges said.
"They told me to keep an eye on him because six-foot-four (1.95m) athletic blokes are not easy to come by.
"He kept improving and we sent them a tape of him; they invited him down for a trial and he played pretty well."
Farrell started pre-season training with the Dragons on Tuesday.
Most newcomers to Sydney would be feeling a bit lost, but Farrell is lucky enough to have had a familiar face at training.
Former Marist Brothers first-grader Peter Reeves is part of the St George-Illawarra Jersey Flegg squad.
He was in the starting side for most of the year, but had a serious injury late in the season and struggled to get back to full fitness before the Dragons swept to the premiership.
"He (Reeves) was going really well, but he got injured," Hodges said.
"Peter's been put in charge of showing Chris around."
The only disappointing aspect of losing Farrell to Sydney is that he won't be available for Marist Brothers next season.
"He's an enormous loss," Hodges said.
"He was only a kid playing against men, especially in the front row, and it took him a while to get his confidence and feel part of the team.
"When he settled in he went great guns for us.
"He's a real good kid with a great work ethic and we hope he goes really well."
Marist Brothers have a history of their players going to the Dragons, with prop Ian Donnelly and winger Amos Roberts recent examples.
Both have since left the NRLclub.