Dragons find their own island pearl

The 250 residents of a tiny island off the top of Queensland in the Torres Strait will stop at 4pm on Sunday afternoon.

About 2800km south of Hammond Island, where gold was once mined and pearls farmed,

St George Illawarra’s Jonus Pearson will run onto WIN Stadium in Wollongong with his island home in his heart and steel in his eyes.

Selected on the wing for his club debut, Pearson’s NRL call-up has been 323 days in the making.

Having played 11 NRL games over the past three seasons, Pearson is the former Brisbane Broncos winger who after scoring two tries on debut in 2016 drew comparisons to former Test and Queensland Origin star Jharal Yow Yeh.R

And Yow Yeh was only too happy to support Pearson.

Pearson in action for Redcliffe Dolphins. Picture: AAP/David Clark

“You’re a potential representative player,’’ Yow Yeh told him. “Believe in yourself.’”

Which is Pearson’s entire career in one catchcry.

After taking a boat ride from Hammond Island to Thursday Island each day as a primary school student, Pearson “believed in himself” and moved to the mainland for years eight to 12 at St Brendan’s High in Yeppoon in central Queensland.

“When I turned 18, that’s when I got spotted playing for the Yeppoon Seagulls,” Pearson said.

Just two years later, Pearson went from park football to scoring tries in his NRL and Broncos debut in front of 30,000 people at Suncorp Stadium.

Pearson celebrates after scoring a try for Brisbane last season.

“Jason Green one of the coaches of the Seagulls was the one that got me to the Broncos in the under-20s,” Pearson said.

“But I didn’t have anywhere to stay, so I stayed in the spare bedroom of my mate, Liam Pickersgill.

“I didn’t have a driver’s licence either. Liam would drive me to training. I can’t thank Liam’s family enough.

“When I made my NRL debut with the Broncos, I gave them my debut jersey.”

It doesn’t get much more north than Hammond Island.

After three NRL games in 2016, six in 2017 and just two under Wayne Bennett at the Broncos last year, Pearson struggled from the setback of a serious broken arm while trying to usurp current Broncos wingers Corey Oates and Jamayne Isaako.

So rather than tread water, Pearson and his mother Elizabeth took the longest trip of their lives, moving to Wollongong to chase an NRL dream with the Dragons.

“I just wanted the opportunity to get some games and the Dragons have given me that,” Pearson said.

“It’s been tough, having the injuries and trying to break into the NRL. You have players like Corey Oates and Jamayne in front of me on the wing, so it’s been really hard.

“Then I came down here, looking for that NRL start and there’s guys like Jordan (Pereira) and Mikaele (Ravalawa) — but I’m so glad now to be in first grade.

Pearson has been working hard for his opportunity. Picture: Andy Washington

“Mum sacrificed her job in Brisbane to live with me here. It’s been a very long time coming.”

Pearson said his NRL elevation has a sense of timing give it’s come in Indigenous round.

“At some points along the way there have been times where I’ve thought about giving up, but when you’ve got family behind you, that believe in you, that’s what has kept me going,”’ Pearson said.

”Most of the Torres Strait would be patting me on the back right now saying ‘you can do this.’

“I’m a proud Torres Strait Islander and being Indigenous round, I’d love nothing more to get a win for the Torres Strait, for the Dragons boys and for everyone that has believed in me.”

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