Manly Warringah Sea Eagles NRL Assistant Coach Steven Hales knew from a young age of the drive and determination Jason Saab had in him to succeed.
As a rugby league coach and teacher at Westfields Sports High in Sydney’s west, the pair crossed paths when Saab was a Year 7 student.
“From the age of 12, Jason just loved rugby league. He was always asking questions on how he could be better as a player. He was one of those kids who was always first at training and the last to leave,’’ Hales recalled.
“Jason always had a smile on his face. He didn’t care what position he played or what role he did for the team, whether it was taking the kicking tee out, or scoring the winning try. Whatever it took for the team, he was willing to go and do that.
“He is an elite athlete. I have no doubt that if he applied himself to athletics or basketball, he would prove to be a success in that as well."
Saab, now 20, links up with Hales again after the former St George-Illawarra Dragons winger signed a three-year deal with the Sea Eagles for season 2021 and beyond.
Hales has no doubt that Saab can build on his impressive start to the NRL at Manly after scoring four tries in his seven top grade games.
“Jason has got the one thing that a lot of players crave, and that’s speed. You can’t teach speed and he has it in truckloads,’’ Hales added.
“His aerial skills are second to none. Jason is a real student of the game and he works really hard on his craft.”
Hales said for all of Saab’s ability and athleticism, there was another great attribute that had impressed him.
“Jason is a really humble young man from a great family. He is very respectful,’’ Hales said.
However, Hales laughs when he recalls the time he wasn’t a fan of young Saab as coach of the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in the NSW Cup competition.
“We were doing it comfortably against the Dragons but within 12 minutes, Jason took the game away from us,’’ Hales said.
“I was walking down the stairs after the game still pretty much in shock as to how we lost the game.
“So Jason’s mum decided it was a good time to come and give me a big hug and celebrate her son’s heroics in the match.
“Whilst I was proud of him after knowing how hard he has worked since the age of 12, it wasn’t the right time for him to go and execute the way he did that day.
“Fortunately for me, we are both on the same team now again at Manly.”