Parramatta Eels Star Takes A Field Trip Down Memory Lane
From representing Shellharbour Oztag to playing on the big stage, NRL halfback Jai Field shared his love for Oztag and how the game has influenced the player he is now.
The 22-year-old began playing with friends when he was eight, falling in love with how much the game transferred into Rugby League.
“I played Touch before tag and obviously touch is a lot faster. But with tag you can kick, slow down a bit and run more footy-type plays,” Field said.
Field’s first Oztag representative experience was for Shellharbour Under 10s, at the NSW State Cup. From there, he went on to compete at the Australian Championships for the Coastal Cobras in the Juniors and for the Vipers in Seniors.
This annual display of talent saw Field selected in consecutive NSW sides to play at the 2012 and 2013 Tri Series. He was also selected in the Under 16s Australian Team that travelled to New Zealand for the 2013 Trans Tasman Test Series, as well as the Under 18s side for the 2015 World Cup.
“It was unreal. To represent any sport in the Australian colours is something special. It was the first team I had ever played in for my country so it was definitely memorable,” Field said.
Growing up playing through the middle, Field acknowledges Oztag as an integral influence on his playmaking skills, contributing to where he is now.
Field made his NRL debut for the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2017 and his recent Club debut for the Parramatta Eels in this year’s Round eight clash against the North Queensland Cowboys.
NRL immortal, Andrew Johns has recognised the importance of Oztag and non-contact sport in the development of young players.
“I’d encourage any young halfback to play as much touch footy and as much Oztag as they can to develop their craft without being bashed out of the game”, Johns told Sporting News.
“I agree with that 100%,” Field said
“In Oztag you have to make your decisions so quickly as a ball player because with the pace of the game, things are shut down so fast,”
“I think you hone your decision-making much quicker than what you would just playing league as a junior. At that age, you’re not really engaging the line, whereas in Oztag and Touch, you’re always at the line,” he said.
With 14 NRL games under his belt, Field is highly regarded for his speed and confidence with the ball. He had great pleasure in sharing his advice to young aspiring Oztaggers.
“Being a smaller kid, stick with your footy while playing your Oztag and Touch because it definitely makes your skills better,”
“Obviously you’re not going to be the most physical kid, but playing Oztag and Touch and learning new ways to kick, pass and step is going to help you in the long run when you grow a bit bigger,” Field said.
Field stopped playing Oztag at the age of 17, his last tournament being for the Vipers Under 20s at the 2015 Senior Australian Championships. He shared that he not only misses the game, but everything that came with it.
“You miss going away to tournaments with your mates, meeting new people and seeing friends that you make through other rep tams,” Field said.
IMAGE CREDIT: Jai Field