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Hard work pays off for Tsikrikas and Bulldogs

Endeavour Sports High School teacher Billy Tsikrikas thought he knew a fair bit about Rugby League after years playing in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup for the Penrith Panthers and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.

Then his playing career led him into the Bulldogs’ NRL squad, and it was a whole new education.

“I thought I knew a fair but about footy, but the intensity was so much harder in the NRL,” the 26-year-old front-rower told nswrl.com.au.

“Every day people were competing harder and harder. I was getting absolutely smashed every day running into some pretty big boys.

“It was tough but getting through each session felt like a mini-achievement to me. By the end of the period I felt far more confident as a player.”

After playing the opening six rounds of The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup, Tsikrikas was called upon by NRL coach Trent Barrett to fill some personnel holes left by COVID-19.

He made his debut against the Brisbane Broncos in Round Seven and left a good enough impression to retain his interchange forward position in the Round Eight win over the Sydney Roosters – breaking a six-match losing streak by Barrett’s side.

Tsikrikas made 29 tackles – missing none – in his 39 minutes on the field.

“’Baz’ keeps it really simple and has asked for three things from me – run hard, make my tackles, and never stop moving,” Tsikrikas said.

“I got a fair few minutes on Sunday – he left me out there longer - so I was pretty happy with that. And we got the win.

“It’s absolutely awesome. It’s my first NRL win but this team probably needed it more.

“It means a lot. There are a lot of open and honest conversations going on, and a lot of hard work. The scores haven’t reflected that.

“There’s been a lot of good performances which we just haven’t finished off. People don’t see how hard we work behind the scenes because they see us drop off towards the end of games.

“It can get ugly very quickly in the NRL, if you get a few quick tries scored against you… so it’s great to just finally close one out.”

He was averaging over 90 metres a game in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup and scored a try, but he doesn’t quite know how 2022 will pan out.

He is sitting out Round Nine due to a one-game suspension for a dangerous tackle on Roosters back-rower Sitili Tupouniua.

“Honestly it’s a bit weird right now,” he said.

“The last few weeks I haven’t trained with The Knock-On Effect Cup side, but I’ve been watching their games and they’re playing so well and so tough.

“They obviously aren’t missing me. I’m not even sure if I’d make the side now, they’re going that well.

“We’ve got people stepping up from Jersey Flegg to play in NSW Cup so I’m so proud of all those boys.

“Whoever I play for, whether it’s NRL or KOE, I’m going to put in my best effort.”

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.