Like many young Australian lads, Drew Hutchison dreamt of playing in the National Rugby League. Unlike most, his dream came true: the 21 year old now plays for the St George Illawarra Dragons.
For Drew Hutchison, it all began in the country town of Albion Park at just the age of eight, when a few of his friends enticed him to start playing the game of rugby league.
“I started playing when I was about eight, a group of my friends started playing at the local club, and that’s how I really got into it, and automatically I got hooked, and I’ve loved it ever since.”
Before Drew started playing in the NRL, he played in junior leagues, for the Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles, and Hutchison still has many proud memories from his days as an Eagle.
“It’s unreal, some of my best memories in rugby league have been playing down at Albion Park, whether that be at school, in the local park or weekend footy with my mates, it means a big deal coming from Albion Park, and I still call it home today.”
Drew has achieved something that few people have done during their careers, playing for Albion Park in the Reserve Grade and First Grade Grand Finals in one day.
“I played two grand finals in one day, and won them both, to be honest the adrenaline got me through it, and still to this day it’s one of the best days of my life, and I’ll never forget it”.
One would think that growing up in the Illawarra, you would support the Dragons, but Drew thought otherwise, and his idol was one of the true legends of the game.
“Growing up I used to support the Bulldogs, because all my mates supported them as well, and I was a massive Darren Lockyer fan, he was a champion player, probably an even better bloke, and he will always be one of the best players in my eyes.”
Drew has played at pretty much every level, and has come through the junior ranks, which led him to the present day, a member of the Dragons NRL squad. Drew, reveals how he ended up at the famous club:
“Well obviously, being a local junior, I came through the Harold Matthews (under sixteens), and SG Ball (under eighteens), and played under twenties (Holden Cup) here at the Dragons, and really enjoyed it since I was a young kid, so why not stay”.
He went on to have one of the experiences of his life, representing and captaining the NSW Under twenties last year, and also playing for the Junior Kangaroos. To represent your state and country is an honour for any athlete, and Drew is no different.
“The whole week is a good buzz going up there, you meet a different bunch of boys, just the whole week itself is enjoyable, and to lead up into those big games, you’re always nervous, but looking back at it now, it’s a proud moment of mine, and I’d like to think I did the state and country proud”.
In any sport, we know that there are supporters who support various teams. When Drew Hutchison played for NSW at Suncorp Stadium, in Brisbane, in front of 50,000 Queenslanders, you know that you are in enemy territory, and knowing that the crowd will give it to you. Drew recalls the experience:
“It was a bit different, you don’t really realise until the end of the game how many people are actually there, because we won pretty comfortably, and as we did the lap around the field, it was a bit overwhelming to realise how many people are there, and not many of them like you, so it’s a different experience”.
Last year, Drew finally got the opportunity from Head Coach Paul McGregor to make his NRL debut, in probably one of the biggest games of the year, the local derby against the Cronulla Sharks. Unfortunately, for Drew and the Dragons, they didn’t get the win that day (lost 28-8), but he will always remember it as his very first game in the NRL.
“Whether it would be one game or one-hundred-and-fifty games, it’s always been a dream of mine to play NRL, and last year it was unreal to do that, in such a big game at Shark Park. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but it was still one of the proudest moments of my life”.
Drew went on to play three games in 2015, against the Brisbane Broncos & the Wests Tigers. He played his first full game against the Wests Tigers in the final round of the season, and it was a game that the Dragons needed to win to make the finals. Hutchison made a big mistake that nearly cost his team the match…
“It was a bit different that game, we started off really well, we were winning quite comfortably and two minutes to go they were really nipping at our heels, then I threw a pass that I definitely shouldn’t have thrown, I instantly thought “No, what have I done, I’ve cost the team a win”, but all my teammates really got around me, and said we have a job to do, we came away with the two points, we kicked a penalty goal in extra time, so it was unreal”. (Dragons won 32-30)
Centre Euan Aitken, just like Drew, made his NRL debut last year, and was one of the standout rookies, Drew vows to one day follow in his footsteps…
“Seeing him succeed so well, it gives me a bit of motivation that I want to be up there with him and hopefully get on the same journey he is on, and move on to bigger and better things”.
Currently Drew plays for the Illawarra Cutters in reserve grade, and knows that the next step is an NRL spot.
“I really enjoy playing for the Cutters, play with a good bunch of blokes, and they all play footy for the right reasons, they all work hard for each other and it’s a really good environment.”
At the Dragons, Drew is currently stuck behind captain, and English International Gareth Widdop, former New Zealand star, Benji Marshall, and Josh McCrone, who has over played 100 NRL games for the Canberra Raiders, Hutchison has learnt quite a lot from these three experienced players:
“It’s unreal, it’s not only on the training paddock, but its off the field, it’s how to conduct yourself as a man, they’re really good people, they’re lovely blokes to have around, and they’ve taught me a lot, not only on the field, but off the field as well.”
Finally, short term, Drew believes that the Dragons can make a run for the Finals in 2016.
“I believe we can go well through this Origin period, we’ve only got 2 out, I can see us going really well and getting a couple of wins together”.
Dragons fullback, Adam Quinlan, is a good mate of Drew’s as well as his Dragons teammate. Adam enjoys having Drew around the team:
“Personally for me it’s great, having him around the team, he is a pretty laid back character, with a good sense of humour, gets on with everyone in the team”.
There has been much speculation on the future of star half, Benji Marshall. Adam believes that Drew can be the long term halfback for the Dragons, if given the opportunity.
“I’m sure if they put faith in Drew, that he would definitely repay them, he is only young and has really matured as a player. He has taken a lead role and he is telling everyone what to do and where he wants them, he has grown enormously. He has really been guiding our team around the park well for the Cutters. The games he has played in first grade have helped a lot. I’m sure he could do a really good job for the Dragons over a number of years”.
Drew and Adam have played together for the Illawarra Cutters in the reserve grade competition. Both players have had a taste of NRL Footy, but never together, and that is Adam’s wish to happen one day
“We’ve been playing a lot together in the reserve grade for the Cutters, and I really enjoy playing with him, I think we form a good combination, and if that were to happen one day, that would be outstanding”.
Quinlan and Hutchison aren’t just mates on the field, they are together quite a lot outside of footy.
“We hang outside of footy a great deal, we have a hit of golf every now and then, we don’t mind having a punt on the horses together, and if we train in the afternoon, we have our little ritual, where we meet up an hour before training and head down to one of the local cafes, and have a pot of tea each and banana bread. Whenever we can we are always together”.