“I made my debut at hooker without even playing hooker at all.”
It’s 2014 and you’re playing reserve grade.
You’ve never played in the No.9 but in less than an hour, you’ll be making your NRL debut in that role.
This is Tyler Randell’s story.
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An Aberdeen Tigers junior, the utility was 60 minutes into his reserve grade game when he was pulled from the field.
He had no idea at the time but he was hooked to make his debut… and he was starting!
“It’s quite a funny story,” Randell told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“I was playing reserve grade against Newtown before first grade and I’d played about 60 minutes and they pulled me off and said; ‘you’re a chance of playing NRL’.
“I said; ‘what do you mean?’ and they said; ‘Travis Waddell is a bit crook. We’re going to pull you off and go talk to Wayne.
“He said; ‘how you feeling?’ and I said; ‘good’. He said; ‘well, you can start’.
“I can’t even remember warming up. It was all a blur. I don’t even think I had a spot in the sheds. I went and got changed next to all the physios. I was out of place and I just thought ‘geez, what’s happening?’.”
In a made scramble with limited time, Randell grabbed his phone and called two people.
The first was his wife and then his mother.
But as fate would have it, Randell’s mother was working that day and lived out of town. With his birthday the following day, he’d told her to skip the game and catch up with him on the Sunday.
“She normally comes to all my games,” he said.
“I remember telling her a couple of days before saying work that day and come down later. She was two hours away and was never going to make it. That was the most disappointing thing.”
After hanging up the phone, it was time to focus.
Quickly changing out of his reserve grade kit, Randell had to wrap his head around the fact he was slotting into a role foreign to him.
“I remember having a talk to Wayne Bennett and one of the assistants and they said; ‘when we get into the good ball, if we’re at this spot, this is the play we’re doing,” he explained.
“I was just agreeing with them.”
So why was Randell picked ahead of someone with NRL or hooking experience?
He has his theory.
“Chad Redman was playing hooker in reserve grade that day and he actually got sent off for elbowing Scott Dureau after he kicked it. I’m not sure if that had something to do with it or not,” Randell said.
“In pre-season I was doing a little bit of pre-season but I didn’t see myself playing there. Adam Clydesdale and Travis Waddell were the hookers in first grade. I’m not sure who was playing hooker in 20s. We had Michael Dobson playing reserve grade then who could’ve slot in at hooker.
“At the end of the day, I said I’m playing, I don’t really care.”
A Scone product who progressed through the junior system, Randell finished the game with a head clash and limited minutes but he’d realised a dream.
“I think I had about 20 stitches but I didn’t really care,” he said.
“I was playing NRL and it was a dream come true.
“… we had a big win. It was my birthday the next day. It was a pretty good weekend.