Dallin Watene-Zelezniak: A STAR BOTH ON AND OFF THE PARK

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak

Thoughtful Gesture Shows Dallin Watene-Zelezniak Has A Big Heart.

NRL players spend most of their careers living in a goldfish bowl, or so the saying goes.

They spend so much time ‘in a bubble’ or ‘under the microscope’!

How often do we see stories on social media or in the newspapers about well known players getting into fights when they’re out on the town or being high on recreational drugs?

Or are we alerted on the TV or radio news about their inappropriate behaviour when it comes to text messages and video recordings?

Quite often, these ‘bad’ reports are blown out of all proportion, and when the smoke has cleared, we learn that the reporter has made a mistake – that there was no truth to the story, rumour or innuendo, whatsoever.

Indeed, in many cases, the media outlets make no effort to offer a retraction, apology, correction or clarification so there are some players out there whose reputations are in tatters for no good reason.

I can tell you for a FACT that there are a lot of players in the NRL who dedicate many hours of their week doing charity work like visiting terminally ill children in hospital and the elderly in aged care facilities.

Or helping teenagers who have gone ‘off the rails’.

So where are all the media reports about the positive work NRL players do in the community?

These ‘good news’ articles are surely outweighed 10 to 1 by the negative stories because it’s a sad fact that in 2020, “bad news sells”.

Today I would like to tell you the story of an NRL player whom I have never met, but I will certainly make it my business to do so.

Because this young man has really touched the lives of my family, and for that I am deeply indebted to him!

Pardon my indulgence as I rarely mention my family in any aspects of my writing, broadcasting or social media stuff but this story deserves to be told.

My wife and I have three beautiful kids gifted to us through the goodness of Allah SWT.

My oldest is 15 year old Jacob, or Jake as he is known at home and by his school and footballing buddies.

Jacob lives and breathes rugby league, and like many of you reading this, he is a Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs ‘tragic’.

There is nothing he doesn’t know about his beloved Doggies, and before COVID-19 hit, Jacob and I rarely missed a Bulldogs game.

Of course, thanks to the Coronavirus, the goalposts have been moved this year (no pun intended).

Fans were locked out of grounds for several months, and even at the Grand Final and during the current State of Origin series, ticket availability has been slashed by around 60 percent so tht social distancing can be observed.

Because I trust my son, I have allowed him to set up an Instagram account (these are easily monitored), and after every Bulldogs game, Jacob sends a kind and encouraging message to each of the players he follows on Instagram.

One such player is 25 year old New Zealand international Dallin Watene-Zelezniak – or DWZ, who has played 28 first grade games for Canterbury since being signed mid-2019 from the Penrith Panthers.

As everyone knows, the Bulldogs have been struggling in recent years as they go through a rebuilding phase, finishing 12th in 2019 and 15th in 2020.

In this year’s COVID-abbreviated season Canterbury won just six matches, but this did not prevent Jacob from communicating with his favourite players each week, offering them kind and encouraging words, even after a heavy defeat.

Jacob’s well-intended offerings were often ignored by some of the bigger name players, but DWZ would reply to him without fail, and the pair quickly built up an online rapport.

Come to the end of the season, imagine Jacob’s surprise when DWZ sent him a message “I was wondering you wanted some of my Bulldogs gear from this year and a signed pair of boots? Just as a thank you for all your support this year? 😊🙌🏾 it meant a lot!”

“I didn’t have a great year but you were always there sending me messages and keeping my head up, you deserve more, thanks bro.. ask your parents if it is ok to send your address and I’ll send you them “

But this isn’t where the story ends….far from it in fact.

Several weeks ago, Dallin promised to gift Jacob his entire playing ‘kit’ and he was as good as his word, as last Friday while Jacob was at school and I was at salat, DWZ drove over to our western Sydney home and dropped off his full bag of Bulldogs playing gear!

As I said earlier, I will definitely make it my business to catch up with Dallin in the not too distant future, to show my appreciation for what he did for my son because while he may not be one of the game’s biggest names, DWT is very much a hero and a superstar for not just Jacob but our entire family.

I am very proud of Jacob.

Not only is he a very good son and a very good oldest brother to his siblings but he is also a talented rugby league player in his own right.

Jacob played hooker for the 2020 Liverpool Catholic Club’s unbeaten Under 15’s side which I train and which well-known NDIS providers Hope And Care NDIS sponsored.

He has been rewarded for his great season with a place in the Wests Magpies junior representative summer squad for the Under 16’s Andrew Johns Cup and my wife and I couldn’t be more proud of him!!