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Hughes on cusp of dream NRL debut

It’s been an unusual journey for North Sydney Bears player Regan Hughes, who was playing country Rugby League 300km away before now finding himself on the cusp of a dream NRL debut.

While dividing his time between playing Rugby Union for Charles Sturt University and Rugby League for Canowindra Tigers in 2019, Hughes received a phone call from Wests Tigers Recruitment Manager Warren McDonell who wanted him to come to Sydney for a trial game.

After an impressive performance, Hughes moved to Sydney to finish the season with the Ryde-Eastwood Hawks Sydney Shield side. He also featured in the 2020 Sydney Shield Grand Final, where the Hawks fell just short of winning back-to-back premierships.

In 2021, Hughes found his way into the Hawks’ Ron Massey Cup side where according to coach Jarred Farlow, he proved himself as the type of player you want to play alongside.

“He’s a good kid; a fiery red head who plays with aggression but he’s in control,” Farlow told nswrl.com.au.

“Whatever you want him to do, he’ll do it. You want him to play front row, he’ll do it. You want him to play on the wing, he’ll do it.”

Between finishing University, moving to Sydney in the middle of a global pandemic, making his NSW Cup debut, playing in a NRL trial, and working as a civil engineer, the last few years have been a whirlwind for Hughes.

“Moving to Sydney was a struggle to start with but I think COVID-19 helped in a way,” Hughes told nswrl.com.au.

“When I moved here it was right in the middle of a lockdown so getting around was quite easy because no one was around. That certainly helped with the adjustment period but as everyone came out of lockdown, I found it a bit overwhelming having so many people around, but I’m used to it now.”

Getting used to the busy streets of Sydney hasn’t been the only adjustment Hughes has had to make since making the move from Canowindra.

“It’s been a change from playing country footy with the biggest difference being all the technical skills,” he said.

“I don’t think the physicality is any different from country football, it’s just as tough. It’s the little things you can get away with in country footy like laying on players in the tackle. You can’t do that here, because the game’s too fast and you need to do those one percenters.

“It’s always good to step up a notch to see if you can handle it and I’ve been enjoying it so far.”

Hughes impressed the Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies coaching staff enough to be named for an NRL trial and to make his debut in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup in 2021.

Although the Tigers went down to Sydney Roosters in the trial, Hughes had a dream start to his NSW Cup career after he chased down a Jock Madden bomb and caught the perfect bounce, before beating two defenders and racing away to score underneath the posts. Making the moment even more special was the fact both his parents had made the trip down the Great Western Highway to support him.

With the 2022 season weeks away, Hughes now finds himself under the tutelage of coach Jason Taylor at the Roosters’ feeder club, North Sydney Bears. While he was unable to crack the Tigers’ top squad in 2021, a NRL debut for the Roosters might be on the cards in 2022.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.