Manly NRL Skills Coach Steven Hales knew Gordon Chan Kum Tong was a natural born leader from a very young age.
As a former teacher and rugby league coach at Westfield Sports High in Western Sydney, Hales recalls the time of how the school couldn’t find a relief teacher to cover a Year 7 rugby league class due to an Schoolboys Open Cup Carnival
“Gordie was 12. After realising there was no teacher coming, he went up to the athletics coach on a nearby field and asked him for a key to open up our storeroom,’’ Hales reflected.
“The athletics coach, who is the longest serving teacher at our school, told him he was not giving the keys to a student as he knew how it would end up.
“Gordie told him he needed the key to run the rugby league training session and that if he didn’t run the session properly, he could take the key off him. He told the coach he didn’t want to miss out on the training session.
“So, Gordie goes out and gets the footy cones. He called the players in and he runs a session that any coach would be proud of.
“The athletics coach was that impressed he went down to see the principal and said that in all his time at the school, he had never seen a student, particularly one at that age, to have the capacity to run a session and have the respect of his peers.”
It was an early indication to Hales then of this fine young man’s leadership qualities.
“If you look at Gordie, he has always been captain of his teams, whether it be school, club, junior reps and now for Blacktown Workers in the NSW Cup,’’ Hales added.
“Blacktown are enjoying their finest season ever. If you look at their team, Gordie is by no means the most experienced or eldest player in it, but he just possesses those qualities that a true leader has.
“There are a couple of things you look with young athletes. The first is their athletic ability. Gordie was always exceptionally fast, a really good mover who scored a lot of tries.
“Even now, when we are prepping for the NRL, he has been on the opposition and his ability to be able to pick up what the other team is doing and then to be able to deliver that is quite impressive.”
Apart from his sheer talent, 21-year-old Chan Kum Tong is also a very respectful and polite young man, whose smile and warmth can light up any room.
It is just one of the many reasons why there is more than an air of excitement around Chan Kum Tong's NRL debut against the Bulldogs at Homebush on Sunday.
“Gordie has been 18th man (for the NRL team) and was very grateful for that,’’ Hales added.
“If he was named in the top 20, he was grateful. If he was going back to captain NSW Cup, he was grateful, and if he had to go back to Jersey Flegg for a week because that’s what was needed, he would be just the same.
“You wouldn’t know after leaving a meeting, or what news he received or where he was playing, Gordie just holds the same demeanour because he is such a positive person.
“The other thing for him is he loves this club. He has been at Manly since the age of 14 when the club took him in.
“Gordie bleeds maroon and white.
Being a kid that lived out west, everything was Manly, Manly, and he would tell everyone how Manly was the best and how Manly was going to win.Steven Hales on Gordon Chan Kum Tong
“He certainly didn’t hide his love and passion for the club.
"For him to now go out and fulfill his childhood dream after seeing the sacrifices he has made and his dedication to work hard, it means so much.
"I will definitely be proud to see him run out there as will his beautiful family. There is plenty of them and they will make a lot of noise."