Not only will Field make Eels his debut against North Queensland at Bankwest Stadium, it will be in the No.7 jersey Sterling made famous.
“It’s pretty cool isn’t it?,” Monique said. “It’s a bit surreal for us.”
Even when her son was playing for St George Illawarra, Monique and Mike still cheered the blue and golds.
“The last few years we’ve had to keep that a secret,” Monique said. “The funny thing is Parramatta has a great record against the Dragons, so we had to do fairy taps in private when you’re at the ground, you can’t actually cheer.”
Monique won’t have to hide here allegiances when she is one of the chosen few allowed into Bankwest Stadium on Friday as part of the capped crowd. However, there were times when it seemed she would never see her son make the big time.
Field was always the smallest person on the field coming up through the grades and is still a relative lightweight now at 85kg. There was a period in his early teens when the Albion Park product thought of giving it away to concentrate on other sports such as athletics and beach sprinting.
One of Field’s junior footy teammates was Blake Lawrie, who was almost twice his size.
“Blocker [Lawrie} looked like he was 10 years older than him, he was a man-child,” Monique said. “And Jai was tiny. That’s how it’s always been with him, he’s really small.”
What he lacked in size he made up for in speed. At nippers, he was once involved in a dead heat for a medal with a much larger boy, who was affectionately known at the time just as “Big Tom”.
Apparently “Big Tom” was pretty handy at football as well. Turns out the lanky teen went by the name Tom Trbojevic.
While Field never enjoyed the same growth spurt, he stuck with the Steeden. His reward will be a 12th first-grade appearance on Friday, as the replacement for injured halfback Mitchell Moses.
Rather than play ducks and drakes when naming his team, Brad Arthur immediately announced Field would be the new playmaker.
“It’s great, we’re looking forward to it,” Arthur said. “We wanted to name him straight away in the seven jersey to show that we believed in him.
“He’s done more than enough to earn his opportunity. The team believes in him and want him out there as well.”
Field declined Arthur’s initial approach after signing with Leeds, but reconsidered when the move fell through after Rhys Martin took up a full import spot. The former Dragons utility initially joined the Eels on a train-and-trial contract during pre-season and has impressed ever since.
“He’s worked hard in the preseason and he’s waited for his opportunity,” Arthur said.
Field still makes a commute of about two-and-a-half hours every day from his home in Shellharbour to training. A deep thinker, it is an opportunity to listen to inspirational podcasts, such as one he recently listened to about a surfing star.
“He’s really inspired by other people’s [triumph over} adversity,” Monique said.
“He’s a really analytical guy … Sometimes we say to him, ‘don’t analyse things, just do it’.”
On Friday, he will get an opportunity to do just that.
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.