22 Nov 2018
Welsh halfback Josh Ralph talks to RLWC2021
"Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, to be part of this"
His coach calls him a “good ‘un” and “a bit of a maverick”. Twenty-one-year-old Josh Ralph just calls himself Welsh.
When the Dragons marched into the 2021 World Cup with wins over Scotland and Ireland earlier this month, their halfback seemed to appear out of thin air, underscoring a decisive contribution with the individual try of the European Cup to seal victory in Wrexham.
In fact, Gold Coast-born Ralph played in last year’s World Cup, forcing his way into the team by the end of the tournament. Coach John Kear says “we found a good ‘un” (“When he takes the line on, he’s really exciting because he’s got good feet, he’s really evasive and he’s very quick”) but Ralph, in fact, found them.
“Three years ago we got in contact with the Wales Rugby League and let them know that I was Welsh,” says the fresh-faced Ralph, now with Brisbane club Easts Tigers in the Intrust Super Cup.
“My grandmother Marcia, her heritage qualified me to play in the World Cup. I was supposed to come over for the European Championship in 2016 but my manager decided I needed a bit of a break. I was still very young then.
“When the World Cup came around, they got in contact with me and asked if I’d be interested. That was the opportunity of a lifetime. I didn’t play in the first two games, I was just young and getting used to it. I got a crack in the last game against Ireland.
“It was a big a big moment for myself and my family.”
A poorly-timed should injury has so far prevented Ralph from making the leap from star junior to the NRL so far. But Easts Tigers have a feeder agreement with Melbourne which could see him at AAMI Park next season.
“I was with the Titans for most of my juniors, then I went to Newcastle Knights for 20s. I got past 20s, had a shoulder reconstruction, missed half a year. Easts Tigers ... I played the year with Easts Tigers and I just re-signed with them for next year …
“They’re a real good club, they’re with the Storm so hopefully something comes of that. Storm are, I believe, the best NRL club … if I can get my foot in the door there, that would be awesome.
“They have said that if I keep doing what I’m doing, there will be an opportunity down there in the pre-season next year and hopefully go from there.
“Because I’m still so young, I’ve got so many years left, I think something will happen. If I keep it up, I think something will come - definitely.”
And if that sort of positive thinking bears fruit, there could be all sorts of pressures for Ralph to jettison that red shirt in 2021 - either to rest at his club’s behest or even, if things go spectacularly well, represent the green and gold.
“Mate, at this stage I’m Wales through and through,” he insists.
“The opportunity they’ve given me, I can’t take that for granted. I want to give back to Wales and the people here. Standing out there, singing the national anthem at Wales home ground was … I had goosebumps. It was the best feeling.
“Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done, to be part of this.
“We’ve got a very young squad and he gave the young guys a go this tournament.
“The World Cup side we had last year compared to the World Cup side we’re going to have in 2021, I think there’s going to be a massive difference. Players are going to be bled into the system. I think we’ve got a lot to look forward to.”