The Rugby League World Cup’s breakout star traded Huddersfield Giants for Australia’s Newcastle Knights aged just 19, but has beaten the “culture shock” to thrive in first the NRL and now with England.
Young’s mother’s family hail from England's Newcastle, and are all big Toon fans. The Wakefield-born winger knows Newcastle Knights in Australia is a good family fit, but explained his love of Chelsea was sparked by watching Ivory Coast hitman Drogba light up the Stamford Bridge stage.
The dreadlocked try-scorer's brother Alex has represented Jamaica in the World Cup, and Young admitted watching sports stars who looked similar to him offered major inspiration in his youth.
“It’s quite funny how things work to be honest; Newcastle in Australia just kind of felt right,” Young told Standard Sport. “It just kind of all fit, and there’s some weird comparisons like that. It’s definitely the right fit for me, Newcastle.
“My mum’s family, they are from Newcastle and they are Toon fans. But I love Chelsea because growing up I just loved Drogba. When I was a kid I just loved him, and I’ve stuck with Chelsea ever since really.
“When I was young I still had the same hair, and I’d see Drogba on the TV and think that I looked a little similar to him. So I loved that, and I loved the way he played the game as well. So as a kid that was me, and I’ve supported Chelsea ever since. Role models are definitely massively important in all sport, they do help bring people into the game.”
Young has racked up eight tries in three World Cup appearances, topping the scoring charts at the end of the pool stages. The powerful finisher has helped England motor into Saturday’s semi-final against Samoa at the Emirates Stadium.
England’s Euro 96 penalty hero Stuart Pearce dropped in on Shaun Wane’s squad earlier in the World Cup, to deliver a stirring talk. Young revealed that ex-West Ham coach Pearce used to help out as a casual coach to his junior football team, Durkar Devils in Wakefield – and that Pearce still remembered.
“It was the first thing he said to me, talking about coaching me back in the day,” said Young. “It was so good to hear from a pro like that, it definitely gave us some things we can take forward.
Role models are definitely massively important in all sport, they do help bring people into the game
“Stuart’s brother-in-law was one of the coaches there, so he would just come down and support us. It wasn’t anything too serious at the time, but it was amazing to have someone like that coming in and being there.
“It was funny for him to joke about how far I’ve come since those days. Stuart Pearce really epitomises what it means to play for your country, so as a group, to hear that first-hand from him was amazing.”
When Young traded Huddersfield for Australia’s Newcastle, he had little idea of what to expect. After a tricky start the talented outside back has found his niche in the unforgiving NRL, and revealed he is settled and sorted down under.
“It was definitely challenging and a culture shock moving to Australia,” said Young. “I’d only just turned 19 and was moving to the other side of the world and I didn’t have a lot of experience in the game really.
“So it was definitely scary, not knowing anyone and not really knowing what to expect as well, kind of walking blind. But I needed that push out of my comfort zone to get the best out of myself.
“I’ve never really looked back since, I’m loving it over there, playing and living over there, so it’s been massive for me, a big step in my career and I’m glad that I took the leap.
“I’m definitely settled. I think I've got a few goals I want to tick off in the NRL and with Newcastle as well, so I’m happy staying there at the minute.”
Tickets are available for the RLWC2021 Men’s semi-final between England and Samoa from just £30 for adults and £15 for children. Visit www.RLWC2021.com/tickets