Giant George Francis aims to be even bigger

He is the Australian Schoolboys star who weighs 110 kilograms, can bench press 150kg and is only 15.

Oh, and did we mention that he is Will Hopoate's first cousin?

Meet George Francis, one of the most exciting young talents in rugby league. The Westfield Sports High star is literally one of the biggest things in junior footy and has the pedigree to go all the way.

After a stint in the Parramatta junior system, Francis is contracted to arch rivals Canterbury and is a member of that club's exclusive high-performance unit.

There is plenty of sporting talent in this family. His 16-year-old sister, Masani, plays netball for NSW. And having watched his cousin, Will, and uncle John Hopoate, the former Sea Eagles powerhouse, make the big time, good judges believe Francis is poised to do likewise.

''I want to follow in their footsteps and make it too,'' said Francis, one of the main reasons his Mounties team have won the past seven titles.

He has already overcome his share of adversity to take the footy field. He broke an ankle so badly in an under-13s game that doctors told him he would never play rugby league again.

However, he proved them wrong and, despite still having plates in his leg, has come back stronger than ever. The big forward can already squat 180kg and was the player of the tournament in a NSW schoolboys competition.

The Bulldogs tried to sign him up for three years but his agent, Mario Tartak of Crown Sports International, agreed to only two, knowing his client would be hot property when next off contract.

''We actually knocked back higher offers because we thought this was the best opportunity for him to develop,'' Tartak said.

Like William Hopoate, Francis is a devout Mormon and begins every day with bible studies before squeezing in his school and footballing commitments.

''He doesn't stop eating,'' chuckled his mother, Loretta. ''He doesn't party, he doesn't put distractions like that before his football and other priorities.''

Minder saves Dugan

Josh Dugan, a recent addition to St George Illawarra's leadership group, was one of several NRL stars at Royal Randwick last Saturday. The fullback has generated the odd headline while on the booze and there could have been another after racecourse staffers feared he was reaching levels of intoxication. Dugan can thank his minder for intervening and convincing him to leave, sparing him the indignity of being ejected from the premises.

Frank disclosure

You can understand if NRL coaches are apprehensive about allowing players to frequent nightclubs in Kings Cross, but this one is an exception. If you spot Frank Pritchard at Vintage Nightclub it's more business than pleasure - he's the owner. ''My wife and sister opened up a bar/nightclub in Kings Cross,'' Pritchard said. ''I don't do too much, just promote it a bit with social media. My wife and sister-in-law do most of the hard work, I'm behind the scenes. Meet and greet, say hello here and there. When I can get in there I do but during the season I stay home and let them take care of it.'' The man dubbed ''Frank the Tank'' is quite the entrepreneur and also owns a popular cafe at Belmore, which his teammates often frequent. The New Zealand international could be on a collision course with his younger brother, Parramatta hooker Kaysa, when they and the Bulldogs clash in round 14. ''It's going to be tough, nobody wants to take a step back,'' Pritchard said. ''Especially being the younger brother, you always want to stand up. It's good to have a brother in the comp, I'm very happy for him.''

Fine mess for Gazelle

The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority is handing out infringement notices to Darren ''The Gazelle'' Hibbert as if they are parking tickets. At last count he had received nine fines totalling just under $10,000.

Hodges in limbo

He has just been handed the Brisbane captaincy, but Justin Hodges might not be available to lead the team onto the paddock for the start of the season. The Queensland centre and wife Gyanne are expecting their first child. If the bub arrives late, Hodges might have to make an agonising choice between playing against the Bulldogs on March 7 or an active part in the birth.

Grima moves on

Popular St George Illawarra video analyst Joey Grima has quit the club to take on an assistant coaching role with the embattled London Broncos. Another Aussie, former Manly three-quarter Ben Farrar, will also join the club.

Buddy beauty

In an interview with the Seven Network during the week, it was put to Swans recruit Buddy Franklin that some people were already doubting whether he would see out his $10 million, nine-season deal. His response was this twist on an old cliche. ''I'm just taking it one year at a time,'' he said.

Kiwis caught napping

As the NZRL conducts an investigation into whether substance abuse affected the Kiwis' World Cup campaign, further details have emerged about the team's preparation. We've been reliably informed that three training sessions had to be called off because some New Zealand players were out of it from mixing sleeping pills and energy drinks. The practice is believed to be more widespread than first feared, with many NRL players indulging in the practice rather than boozing up or taking recreational drugs. The Warriors management has wisely banned the practice of providing players with sleeping pills and other NRL clubs could follow suit.

Reilly steps down

Long-serving Manly-Warringah Rugby League Football Club chairman Bob Reilly has announced his decision to step down from the chairman's position. Reilly will serve as deputy chairman. Former deputy chairman Bob Stevenson was elected unanimously by the football club board to take over the top role. ''It has been a great honour to have served football club members in this position over the last seven years and be part of this magnificent club, during which time the Sea Eagles have made every finals series and appeared in four grand finals, winning two premierships,'' Reilly said. Stevenson will serve as one of the club's two directors on the Sea Eagles board along with football club company secretary Julie Sibraa, who joined the football club board last October.

Wave rider swells with success 

There are big waves and then there is this one  Tyler Hollmer-Cross caught. After surviving this monster, off Pedra Branca in Tasmania, Hollmer-Cross pipped his brother James as the Oakley Big Wave Award winner, earning a $20,000 cheque. ‘‘These were the biggest waves I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ Hollmer-Cross said. ‘‘The first wave we saw would have had to have a 70-foot face. I knew that the wave I caught, my finalist entry, was the biggest of my life. I knew I had to get out of the way of the lip so I didn’t get knocked out. I tried to pull through the back of the wave, but it took me with it and I was driven so deep into the abyss it felt like my head was going to pop from the pressure. I managed to get one gasp of air before the wave behind that one landed on me. Eventually my brother picked me up but I was ill and I couldn’t see anything as my vision was blurred.’’

Danny Weidler returns next week. 

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