Melbourne: Australian cricket's gain in allrounder Dan Christian has been the loss for the country's National Rugby League (NRL).
Christian has been selected for Australia in the Boxing Day Test against India at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). As a youngster, Christian showed all the traits of being an NRL player in the making. But getting selected for the Australian under-19 squad was the catalyst for Christian to give up his promising league future.
"He told me if he made the Australian under-19s side, he would concentrate on cricket and give up footy. Whatever he was playing, football, cricket, I always knew he was going to make it. I thought he would play league, but I left it up to him. He could kick the ball over from halfway like it was nobody's business," said Christian's father Clem.
Christian and former Australian back-rower Ryan Hoffman, who went on to win two NRL grand finals with Melbourne Storm before they were stripped of the titles, formed a great pair for St. Gregory's College in the 2000 Australian Schoolboys Cup.
For Christian it has been a roller-coaster fortnight. He lost his boxing champion uncle Trevor last Sunday while he was with the Australian team in Hobart.
"He spent four days with us last week, he was close to both my brothers. The day I rang him when he made the Test squad, Trevor was in hospital, Dan was quite upset about that. Then a few days later he passed away. My older brother played 21 first-grade games for Newtown, and Trevor was an Australian boxing champion," Clem was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph.
Christian's mother Toni fondly remembers the old days when she used to spend hours driving him from Campbelltown to Kensington when Christian joined the University of New South Wales cricket team, where he was mentored by Geoff Lawson and Michael Slater.
"It was especially busy when the footy and cricket seasons overlapped, we'd be driving from the footy to the cricket, and the cricket to the footy. The move to Sydney was a big thing for him at 13, he had to make a whole lot of new friends, but that was his dream, going to St Greg's mainly to play footy. Cricket came second back in those days. He broke a leg playing footy when he was 14, he had to get screws put in but came back from that fairly well. He is a very determined person, he didn't let the broken leg get to him," she said.