THE fact young Dragons prop Josh Kerr is yet to make his NRL debut is a head-scratcher for some, but the 22-year-old has never expected a saloon passage to the top grade.
The signing of the former Melbourne NYC star two years ago brought plenty of excitement from Dragons fans who expected him to make an immediate step up to the top grade.
What few realised was that the Redcliffe Dolphins product was a novice in the front row game, having come through the junior ranks as an outside back.
“I actually grew up playing in the centres, I idolised Greg Inglis and wanted to be like him,” Kerr said.
“I was 19 when I went down to Melbourne, I was playing a bit of wing and fullback still, and they said ‘we want to put you in the back row’.
“I trained the whole preseason as a back-rower, I put on some size, and then two days before the first trial game they said ‘we’ll just chuck you in the front row and see how you go’.
“I played those first few trials and haven’t stepped out of the position since.”
It’s made two seasons in the Intrust Super Premiership a valuable apprenticeship, a process he expected to go through in navigating a path to the NRL.
“If I was doing cartwheels and back flips down in 20s and scoring tries like anything then I might’ve expected to go straight in [to first grade] but the club told me from day one that it takes time to build front-rowers,” he said.
“I had no idea how much work middles do and the little things they have to do consistently well to win games. That’s what you have to learn so I knew I wasn’t going to step straight into it, I have to earn it.”
It’s been a steep learning curve but, now in his third preseason, Kerr is adamant he’s ready to make that leap.
“I felt I was ready last year but it’s one of those things where you live and you learn,” he said.
“You look back and think I could have done this a bit better or that a but better, but the amount of confidence I’ve come back with is a massive step ahead of last year.
“I feel a lot more confident in everything I’m doing because I’ve been in this position before.
“Mary [Paul McGregor] always talks about the older boys being willing to take themselves to a dark place and I’m a lot more comfortable now pushing my body to its limits. It’s just about putting it into games.”
Off-contract next season, the 2019 campaign is a pivotal one for the former Queensland under 20s rep, but he says it hasn’t given him and extra sense of urgency.
“It’s a little thing that plays in the back of my head but I don’t want to do it out of desperation,” he said.
“Coming into the club’s been unreal, but the longer I’m here the more I want it. Not a lot of people get this opportunity and I want to make the most of it.
“Hopefully Mary sees something in me this year to give me that opportunity. I believe I’m ready and mentality’s a big thing for me. I’ve just got to see myself doing it and I’ll do it.”