By Dan Walsh
One family, three matches, two hours and one little slice of rugby league history. The greatest game of all is set to take a Strange turn on Sunday afternoon.
At 12.03pm, John Strange will coach the Roosters NRLW side against Cronulla.
At 1.50pm, his daughter Jasmin will run out for NRLW defending champions Newcastle against the Titans.
And 10 minutes later, her 18-year-old brother, highly-rated Raiders rookie Ethan, makes his NRL debut against the Storm at AAMI Park.
Mum Adele will be in the stands in Melbourne, while Jasmin is jokingly resigned to “no-one watching me this weekend”. The Roosters are working out a contingency plan whereby John could coach remotely so that he can watch his son’s debut in person, with Tricolours assistant coach Kylie Hilder holding the fort.
Ricky Stuart’s show of faith in teen star Ethan, handing him a top-grade debut against the Storm in Melbourne, prompted stunned silence, emotion, and more stunned silence from the youngest Strange earlier in the week.
It’s also in keeping with opinion held by plenty around the NRL after half a dozen clubs chased his signature and Strange bagged a hat-trick for NSW in the recent under 19s Origin clash.
“I spoke to Sticky about a month ago and he said he wanted to debut Ethan leading into the semis,” John Strange told this masthead.
“When he signed, Stick and I had a father-to-father chat and he told me he wouldn’t be put in before he was ready. He was only 17 when he moved down to Canberra and I was looking at the draw, trying to work out which game he could be playing.
“Then Sticky rang this week telling me he’ll start at centre against Melbourne in Melbourne, it’s a big call and an exciting one.”
When Ethan came off-contract last year, similarities between Stuart and Strange snr helped secure the young playmaker until the end of 2025.
“I stayed right out of all negotiations, it was his manager and mum Adele handling that,” Strange said.
“But when he met with Ricky, they really connected. Rick showed him around the place, took them out for lunch and Ethan really warmed to him as an honest, down-to-earth character. Adele could see some similarities between us and Sticky’s really looked after him ever since.”
While Ethan takes his first step into the NRL, Jasmin too has been finding her feet after an ACL rupture during the Covid-19 pandemic and one game under John at the Roosters last season.
Like Ethan, the 20-year-old outside back and Maori All Stars representative was on the tricolours books until last year before making a conscious decision to take the Strange name on the road.
“The hardest thing with Jaz was that with me as her coach, she wanted to make it on her own,” John said.
“That was the big drive for her, to be making a team not as the coach’s daughter. I don’t think that noise was there from players or anyone, and it certainly wasn’t true either, but it was in her mind anyway.
“The way she explained it to me was that she wanted to go out on her own and establish herself.
“She originally played for Newcastle in Tarsha Gale Cup (under 18s) so the Newcastle move was a bit of a homecoming anyway. And there’s always the option for us to coach and play together again in the future, maybe. I’d like to coach her again, she’s tough, aggressive and smart, that’s the type of player I like to coach.”
Which means sledging at the dinner table. Ethan told a Raiders podcast this week that he was “giving it” to John after Canberra’s fledgling NRLW side thumped John’s Roosters in round 2.
The father-daughter, Knights-Roosters clash doesn’t arrive until September 9.
“But I’m already thinking about it and she’s already asking if she’ll be targeted,” John said. “She is my daughter of course, but she’ll also be wearing the wrong jersey on game day.”
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