It was a day for Emerging Blues – and not just on the Rugby League field.
As the state’s best up-and-coming Origin hopefuls came together in Sydney Olympic Park for the NSWRL’s annual program, a similarly young, exciting athlete prepared for the match of his life just a few hundred metres away. Alex de Minaur, 18, has announced himself as one of Australia’s brightest prospects in tennis, completing a series of upsets in recent tournaments and becoming the youngest player since mentor Lleyton Hewitt to reach the final of the Sydney International.
Having spent his early years living in Sydney, de Minaur is a Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues tragic – and has made his allegiances clear in his recent rise to stardom. The current world no.167 has declared his support for his state after several of his big wins, earning the attention and support of the NSW Rugby League.
Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler – a known childhood idol of de Minaur’s – says the admiration is mutual.
“I was a fan of his tennis before I realised he was a Blues fan so I’ve been sitting and watching with my daughter every time he’s been on,” Fittler tells NSWRL.com.au. “There’s something about him; he doesn’t give up, so it’s a nice message to send to all our players.
“He just seems to have a really strong frame of mind and doesn’t ever want to give up.”
In particular, de Minaur has spoken regularly of the “Blue Wall” mentality that has kept him going through big matches and into the hearts of the Australian public. One of the values of the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues, it speaks of standing strong under adversity – particularly in defence – and demonstrating unwavering pride in the state.
While Fittler was invited to de Minaur’s coach’s box for the final against world no.84 Daniil Medvedev, a clash in responsibilities with the Emerging Blues squad meant this wasn’t possible. While the Spain-based player went down to Medvedev in three sets, his achievements were extraordinary and are sure to serve as an inspiration to emerging Origin players in future.
“Someone who’s doing so well – as he is – has taken an interest in our sport and what we’re doing, so I can’t wait to catch up with him,” Fittler adds. “I’m going down to Melbourne (for the Australian Open) so I’ll definitely be pushing to catch up with him down there.”
In the meantime, the NSWRL presented a 2018 Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues jersey to de Minaur in the hours leading up to the big match, accompanied by a message of support from Fittler. Those present at the proud New South Welshman's post-match press conference were left in no doubt as to whether he appreciated the gesture.