If you asked 2019 Canterbury Cup NSW Player of the Year Billy Brittain if he was any chance to play for St George Illawarra Dragons in the opening two rounds this year, he would have told you “you’re dreaming” after only joining the club a month before the NRL season started.
The former South Sydney hooker cemented himself as one of the premier hookers in the Canterbury Cup NSW last season with his outstanding ball-playing ability, producing 15 try-assists, 17 line-break assists and 784 tackles from just 20 games.
The 25-year-old played two first grade games for the Rabbitohs last year and with Dragons captain Cameron McInnes still recovering from a knee injury, he was thrown into action shortly after signing a four-week train and trial contract.
“I was in a situation where it was really late in the pre-season and I thought most clubs would have their lists pretty much finalised,” Brittain said.
“In terms of playing any NRL games I definitely didn’t think that was going to happen, especially not in the first couple of rounds.
“I was very fortunate to be at a club and then to get two NRL games under my belt was definitely a bit surprising - if you’d asked me three or four weeks prior to that I would’ve said ‘you’re dreaming’.”
Brittain admitted the transition to the Dragons was easy because of the group of players that welcomed him, including former New Zealand International Issac Luke, who has also stepped up in McInnes’ absence.
“Issac’s always tipped me up on little things and he’s been really approachable, even just to sit back and watch him because he’s really crafty around dummy half,” Brittain said.
“It’s been really good trying to pick his brain because he’s played at the highest level, so I’m lucky enough in the sense that even though Cam’s been out, I’ve had Issac Luke there to learn off and pick up the Dragons system a lot quicker.”
McInnes, who has been part of the NSW Emerging Blues, was poised to make a return and with the NRL set to restart on May 28, Brittain is keen to be his understudy.
“It doesn’t matter who the player is, I’m always open to new ideas if it’s going to help me as a footy player, I’d be silly not to listen to them - whether its Cam, Issac or even a young kid coming through,” he said.
“Cam is on the cusp of rep footy potentially and he’s played a lot games as captain so it’d be really good when he gets back from his knee to train with him and learn what he’s about.”
At South Sydney, Brittain was behind Brydens Lawyers NSW Blue No.9 Damien Cook so he has learned to be patient but remains committed to securing a permanent spot in the Dragons top squad.
“Everything happened so quickly so I didn’t really have time to set out some goals and to be honest if you would have asked me I would have said probably play more NRL games than last year, which I am already tied with after two rounds,” Brittain said.
“We’ve got two really good hookers there at the moment so obviously, I don’t want anyone to get in injured but playing in the NRL is my goal, staying on the paddock all year is another goal of mine but in all honesty, I haven’t really sat down and thought too much about it.”