Josh Cleeland knows it. His coach Steve Georgallis knows it. Former coach Chris Walker knows it. Fans who follow the Intrust Super Premiership NSW know it.
The Bulldogs’ Intrust Super Premiership NSW five-eighth is good enough for the NRL, he’s just waiting for a chance. The 2016 and 2017 Intrust Super Premiership NSW Team of the Year member has been there or thereabouts for long enough.
At Cronulla, where he played for the Sharks in the Auckland Nines and for the Newtown Jets during the 2016 regular season, he thought it may happen. So too last year, his first year at the Bulldogs, where the first-grade team finished 11th.
Could now, with the Bulldogs’ NRL side struggling following a one-and-four start to the year, be the time for Cleeland, once described by Walker as possessing instincts like Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler?
“I think I’m ready now. I’ve been here (at this level) a couple of years now, I just want to give it my best,” Cleeland tells NSWRL.com.au.
“If I get that opportunity I’ll take it but if they’re not ready for me now I’ll wait down here and hopefully keep playing good footy.
“I didn’t get a chance at Cronulla… I wasn’t expecting to get [to Intrust Super Premiership NSW level] to be honest, but if I do get that opportunity I’ll be happy as.”
The modest Cleeland, who led the Ipswich Jets to a Queensland Intrust Super Cup title in 2015, is off-contract at the end of the season… and will be sure to have interested parties knocking down his door. But for the moment he insists he’s happy where he is, waiting patiently, as he has for the past three or four years.
“It’s a good competition [the Intrust Super Premiership NSW], I like it a lot. It’s filled with really good NRL-standard players. Obviously I want to make it to the next level but I’m happy to play here for the moment,” Cleeland, who got married on the day he signed an NRL contract with Cronulla, says.
“This is my last year here and I’m not sure what’s going on (contract-wise) but hopefully some good footy can spark some interest.”
The creative and powerful playmaker, however, has full faith in his club NRL coach Dean Pay – and all the changes that have happened at the Bulldogs over the past few months, for that matter.
“It’s been a big cleanout… it’s been interesting seeing all the new faces,” he says.
“Dean’s a really good coach, he’s upfront, he just tells you what you need to work on and he’s not hard to approach… he’s really good.”
If Pay asks Georgallis his views on Cleeland, the headgear-wearing five-eighth, who has helped his side reach second position on the ladder, won’t be waiting much longer.
Match: Bulldogs v Roos
Round 5 -
Venue: Belmore Sports Ground