RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS
Days of juggling work and playing commitments are over for Illawarra Cutters prop Rory O'Brien after he put pen to paper on an upgraded deal with the Dragons on Thursday.
The Dragons were linked to Raiders prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs to bolster their undersized pack before the June 30 deadline but looked to their backyard and offered the 195cm-tall, 119-kilogram prop a full-time deal until the end of the 2016 season.
It caps a meteoric rise for the 25-year-old who, just last year, was plying his trade in the Illawarra Coal League with Collegians where he spearheaded the Dogs to premiership.
He earned a Country Firsts jumper after he led Illawarra to the Country Championship title in a season that saw him named joint Country Rugby League Player of the year.
That stellar season earned him an Illawarra Cutters deal and his strong form in the NSW Cup saw his contract upgraded this week.
The Hurstville United junior will begin full-time training with the Dragons on Monday with the aim of making his NRL debut for the club he last played for at under-20s level in 2008.
"I am a local junior and always hoped to be able to play for the Dragons one day," O'Brien said.
"I am really determined to make the most of this opportunity to train full-time and give myself every chance to one day earn a place in the first-grade team."
Coach Paul McGregor has shown a willingness to look to the Cutters with Adam Quinlan, Peter Mata'utia, Shane Pumipi, Will Matthews and Charly Runciman all earning call-ups during his first month at the helm.
He said O'Brien's strong form in the NSW Cup warranted spot in the Dragons top squad.
"This season he earned a spot with the Illawarra Cutters where he has been a strong performer and the full-time training will enable him to further develop as a player," McGregor said.
"He has a good skill set which will add to the playing group at the Dragons. He will be a welcome addition to our squad."