Mark O’Meley fought hard to get Sam Verrills into his NSW Under-20s team this year when the selectors wanted to pull in another direction.
As it turns out, Verrills fought equally hard to get in the team once O’Meley got his way.
When the team was picked, Verrills was scheduled to play NRL for the Roosters that week. Normally, players are immediately pulled from these junior representative games to focus on playing first grade.
Verrills wanted to represent his state so much, he convinced Trent Robinson to make an exception. The now three-time premiership winning coach obliged, and Verrills played the Under-20s State of Origin game just four days after playing for the Roosters.
“When you want to wear the NSW jumper, I’ll do everything possible to help them,” O’Meley said to NSWRL.com.au.
“He rang me wanting to play, so did Tex Hoy, so when ‘Robbo’ made an exception and said that he’d play on the Friday and then get dropped into camp, I was excited.
“He didn’t miss any training sessions at all, he trained without worrying about the load, he’s a natural leader.”
O’Meley had the final say when it came to picking the hooker for the NSW Under-20s team, and it paid off tremendously with Verrills setting up two tries, running for 93 metres and making 34 tackles in the Blues’ 36-10 victory over Queensland.
Fast forward three months and Verrills has a premiership ring with the Sydney Roosters in a game where he scored the first try of the game in just his 14th NRL match.
In what was most definitely the biggest moment in Verrills’ career so far, O’Meley believes the Raiders should have been more ready for that play.
“He did that play for the Under-20s for two years straight and he’s scored five tries off it this year, they didn’t do their review too well on him,” O’Meley said.
“If anything, he was almost too intelligent, he probably ran the ball too much; in the Under-20s he had two dominant halves, but now he’s gone away from that into a team that plays as a team, not individuals as it shows, and he excels.
“He’s a great kid, his tackle technique and wrestle is really good.
“Jake Friend throws his whole body at the line more, but Sammy is technical and wins the wrestle as opposed to getting in front of them like Jake.
“I texted him the week before the Grand Final, I was hoping because of Jake Friend they’d still carry him.
“I’m happy because I watched the kid for years when he’s been at the Roosters and he’s done it the hard way by working his ass off.”
As far as his attacking skills at hooker goes, he is incredibly sharp for a 20-year-old.
He’s got a fan in fellow hooker Danny Buderus, who is impressed by the youngster’s vision and decision making under pressure.
“Straight away you think about his pass, his vision and the way he can bring players onto the ball,” Buderus said.
“He picks his time when to fit into the structures of the team, but also picks his time to go out of those and doesn’t miss an opportunity to do so.
“You can see he‘s a team man, but when there’s some real red alerts to do his thing out of hooker, he does it.
“What a dramatic rise it’s been for him this season to score in a Grand Final in his 14th game.”