DRAGONS rookie sensation Cody Ramsey didn't know there were that many primary school kids in Molong.
Back in his hometown for post-season "chillax" the 20-year-old thought he'd invite a handful of kids to head down the park for a kick around. Then - as it tends to do in a town of 3000 people - word quickly got around.
"I went back home straight after the season ended and just relaxed, saw my family and friends and got away for a bit and just chillaxed because it has been pretty full-on the past four-five months," Ramsey said.
"I said to maybe three or four kids that I was heading down the park and I've got a few footballs if you want to come down. I think there were 50-something kids that turned up, all the kids in Molong.
"I'd never seen so many kids on the field in my entire life. All those kids were there to see me and it was like 'far out'."
If the try-scoring prowess and Kevin Hastings-like mop has already made him a cult figure for Dragons fans, his status in his hometown has moved to God-like after debuting for the Dragons last season.
His two-try debut was the virtual story of the year for the joint-venture amid an otherwise forgettable campaign and made mum Kim the most famous rugby league matriarch since Julie Burgess.
"Mum got more air time than me if I'm being honest," Rasmey said.
On the personal front, it went almost as well as it could've - the bunker pinching what would have been a hat-trick from him not withstanding - but he admits there was some pressure beforehand.
He first set tongues wagging with a standout showing at the NRL Nines, but shoulder surgery, and the small matter of a global pandemic, left him with precious little footy under his belt heading into the round-18 clash with the Raiders.
"The week I came in to debut I thought, 'I've hardly played any football, I don't know how good I'm gonna go here'," he said.
"I had surgery at the start of the year but there was no football, so I didn't miss out on anything.
After our last game we had a meeting and I was pretty scrawny, so the goal for me was to put on some weight.Cody Ramsey
''I got a good recovery in and got back into the squad but it felt like we were in pre-season 2.0 because we were just running and we weren't playing.
"I was feeling pressure but the boys just got around me and said 'it's just like any other game, you run circles around people at training, they wouldn't have put you there if you couldn't do the job for them'.
"I was definitely nervous and I had doubts but you can't doubt yourself coming into an NRL debut so, by the time I stepped on to the field, I didn't have any doubts at all."
The strong finish will see him competing with the likes of Jordan Pereira and Mikaele Ravalawa to retain his wing spot, with coach Anthony Griffin putting his immediate focus on the weights room.
"After our last game we had a meeting and I was pretty scrawny, so the goal for me was to put on some weight," Ramsey said.
"He set me 86 kilos as a comeback weight and I worked pretty hard. I'm up to 87 and I'm pushing for 90 after Christmas.
"You've got to adapt, my body's not [yet] good enough to maintain a whole NRL season. I need to be bigger, stronger, it's something I just need to work on myself."
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