Tristan Sailor hopes to win St George Illawarra’s vacant fullback roleafter an impressive debut against Sydney Roosters on Saturday night.
Sailor, who is poised to sign a contract extension with the Dragons, provided hope for the future on an otherwise dismal night for the club at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium as they succumbed 34-12 to the Roosters.
The 21-year-old, whose famous father Wendell finished his glittering career in the Red V a decade ago, scored a try and ran for 152 metres after being called up for his NRL debut when Ben Hunt failed a midweek HIA.
Wendell, his wife Tara and her parents presented Tristan with his debut jersey before the clash with the young rookie saying he was now ready to step out of his father's shadow.
"I'm used to it," he said of the comparisons with Wendell, a dual international who played 229 matches for Brisbane and the Dragons, 16 Tests, 14 Origins and 37 Tests for the Wallabies.
"It just comes with things now and I have got pretty good at just blocking it out.
"I have waited a bit for my debut but when it came I played 80 minutes in my preferred position and to verse the best fullback in the world [James Tedesco] at the moment, in my opinion, was really good. It is better to start with the best, in my opinion.
"I just wanted to get runs, make my tackles, and do it all hard and with intent."
With a full off-season as a member of the Dragons' top 30 squad, Sailor is aiming to win the No.1 jersey after St George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop departs for Warrington next year.
"Ben Hunt will be back next week so whether I play first grade again or not, we will hopefully go to the grand final for Canterbury Cup so I will get ready for that and focus on that," he said.
"Then I just want to have another really strong pre-season and stake my claim for the No.1 spot if I can. I think it is just me focusing on my performance and continuing to train well. Hopefully I get rewarded with a spot."
While he is yet to put pen to paper, Sailor said he was intending to accept a contract extension with the Dragons.
"I am off contract at the moment but they have offered me a contract so I am most likely going to re-sign," he said.
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor expects Sailor to bulk up and be ready for more first-grade action in 2020.
"He scored a try, he had a couple of nice touches and he tried to get involved in the game. He made a couple of errors but I thought he made a really sound debut so I thought he was good," McGregor said.
"Tristan is obviously very strong in the gym and very fit but he is still very young so he has got to develop around his game in a few areas.
"Another pre-season of trying to thicken him up a bit more and he might grow a little bit but he does all the right things at training to give himself the best opportunity in the game."
Widdop's return to England will ensure a spot is available in the spine next season and Sailor is likely to compete with Zac Lomax for the No.1 jersey.
However, he can also play a number of other backline positions and could be an ideal No.14.
"Tristan’s career is quite bright, even though he is young because he can play multiple positions as well," McGregor said.
"He can play a little bit of five-eighth, he can play in the centres, he can play on the wing so he has got that utility value as an outside back so he just needs a bit more education around that."
With Hunt likely to return next week it is unclear whether Sailor will retain his place for the match against Wests Tigers at the SCG but McGregor expects whoever plays to do better than the Dragons did on Saturday night.
Trailing 28-0 at half-time, they fought back in the second half to score tries through Sailor and Luciano Leilua but the game was well and truly gone before then.
"We had no intent in our defence, it was pretty simple," McGregor said of the first-half effort.
The fact the Dragons had pushed the Sharks (18-12), Parramatta (12-4) and Rabbitohs (20-16) and downed the Titans during the past month, made the lacklustre first half even more galling for McGregor.
"The last three losses we were fighting for a win up until the last five minutes but we were never in the game tonight," he said. "It was nowhere near good enough."