Years of hard work, determination, and the desire to prove ‘people wrong’ will all pay off for rising young hooker Gordon Chan Kum Tong on Sunday.
The exceptional 21-year-old hooker finally gets the chance at NRL level to showcase his skills and creativity after Manly Coach Anthony Seibold called him into the team to play Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Accor Stadium.
Ironically, Chan Kum Tong makes his debut against the Bulldogs after starting his league career with the Bankstown Bulls in the Canterbury competition, where he often heard how he was too small to make it in rugby league.
After Chan Kum Tong left the Bulls to play for the Maroubra Lions alongside his brother in fellow hooker, Johnathan, a switch to Manly at the age of 15 saw the former Westfield Sports High student him come through the Sea Eagles Pathways Program.
Displaying a level of maturity, professionalism, competitiveness, and natural leadership well beyond his years, Chan Kum Tong was captain of Manly's SG Ball and Jersey Flegg teams.
He stepped up this year to be captain of the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles in his first season in the NSW Cup.
Standing at just 173cm and weighing 92kg, Chan Kum Tong uses his stature to his advantage.
Born to Samoan parents - his father, Oka Jonathon is half-Chinese - the family motto of ‘Doubt Not and To Fear Not’ is carved deeply inside 'little’ Gordie’s big heart.
“We’re built really small, so my Mum (Fay), has always told me to take my challenges head on and to not doubt yourself,’’ Chan Kum Tong said.
“People often doubt me, saying I’m too small. That’s just who I am. And I love proving people wrong.”
Seibold has been impressed with Chan Kum Tong’s development since giving him a run in the NRL Pre-Season Challenge won by Manly in February.
His strong performances against two heavyweight teams in Gosford certainly captured the attention of many Sea Eagles fans, whop have been eagerly awaiting his NRL call up.
“Gordon has been a very good captain for Blacktown Workers this year, so he has earned his spot,’’ Seibold said.
“We just thought it was the right time to give him an opportunity in the NRL. He has had to work hard for it being a development player.
“Gordon has plenty of energy. He has a fantastic attitude and is a very positive person. We just felt it was the right time.”
Blacktown Workers Coach Greg Boulous said Chan Kum Tong has been a consistent performer each week for his team.
“Gordon has been a very good leader all year. It doesn’t matter who you are playing against or what the score is, he just wants to play footy. He wants to compete,’’ Boulous said.
“For a guy who plays in the middle and has traffic coming his way, he never backs down. He gets his body in front and makes his tackles.
“Gordon has got some good dummy half craft that he continues to work on. He has got that ability to have that dummy half deception and to find a pass to the middle forwards when they need it, or find a pass when our halves are ready to go or want the footy.
“He fully deserves his opportunity in the NRL.”
Chan Kum Tong's NRL debut comes two months after he and his partner, Mel, became proud parents to a son, Gemel, making Sunday's game even more special for 'little Gordie'.