Young gun Host born to be a Dragon
LOOK close enough and you'll see why Graham Host says his son, St George Illawarra forward Jacob, is living every fan's dream.
"He's got one white eye and one red eye. That's how much he loves the club. Our family are tragics,'' Graham said, with a smile.
Born to be a Dragon?
"Well, that's another story,'' the proud father says.
Host, the first son of Graham and Cathy, was due to arrive into this world on September 29, 1996.
"Or better known as grand final day that year,'' Host, 22, says, picking up the story.
"That was the year the Dragons played Manly in the grand final.
"The Dragons did well through that finals series to go all the way from seventh to the grand final.
"And the whole time, my dad was telling Mum, 'Hold on, just hold on one more week. The Dragons are going to make the grand final and I want you to be there.
"I ended up hanging on, born the day after the grand final - albeit after we'd lost to Manly.''
Any pain from the premiership loss was quelled by the arrival of Jacob.
Graham's first gift to his newborn son was a football.
"He was basically born with a footy in his hand,'' Graham said.
"He'd go to bed at night with his arm around a football. I always knew he was going to do something special one day.''
From the Dragons' opening month of stress has emerged hard-running Host - a former Dragons ball-boy, and a Kogarah hill diehard since the age of two.
"I've been a massive Dragons fan my entire life,'' Host says.
"I had the posters all over my bedroom and all the jerseys signed. My dad would be holding me as a baby watching the game.
"I still remember as a kid sitting on the hill at Kogarah with my family, watching the boys, week in week out.
"We were at every game and my family still sit in the same spot we did all those years ago.
"Dad always had one rule: we never left before the full-time siren.
"I still remember the fans leaving Kogarah early when the boys came back from something like 34 points to beat Manly (in 2004).
"Our family's passion for Saints came from my grandfather, (Les, 91), who passed it on to Dad and then me and my brothers.
"So now that I've got the opportunity to have a starting role, it's the best thing ever. I love every minute of it.
"Just to pull the jersey on and go into battle with the boys, it's something I've been dreaming about as a kid.''
Hailing from the rich production line of Dragons to have played their junior footy with Renown United, Host spent his early years running the sideline with current Saints teammate Luciano Leilua as the SG Ball and Harold Matthews Cup ball boys.
"Dad came home one day and said he'd heard they needed ball boys. I said yes straight away,'' Host says.
Boasting size and an understanding of the game, Host progressed from Renown to be chosen in the 2014 Australian Schoolboys side.
Host credits the coaching of Ben Hornby in the SG Ball and under-20s teams at Saints as the moment he realised he had the potential to chase his dream.
"It really clicked in SG Ball that I could give this a good shake,'' Host says.
"Ben Hornby became our SG Ball coach and I felt, under his guidance, my game completely evolved.
"When I went to 20s, he switched me from the middle (front-row) to back-row and I feel that was the best thing that ever happened to me.
"I credit a lot to Benny on how he has developed me as a player. He's taken Matt Dufty, Luciano Leilua, Hame Sele and me, who I came up the ranks together with, to this point.
"We've got a special bond us boys.''
On Sunday afternoon against Newcastle, Host runs out for his 28th appearance in the Red V with untold confidence.
Last weekend against the Broncos, he was the only Dragons forward to play the entire 80 minutes - the first time in Host's career he'd played NRL without being subbed.
Articulate, focused and respectful of his privileged position with the Dragons, Host sat down on New Year's Day to pen his goals for 2019.
"I look at those goals once or twice a week,'' Host says.
"One of them was to cement a spot in the side, whether that was bench or starting. I've been fortunate that Mary (coach Paul McGregor) has given me an opportunity to start.
"I've got to keep working hard and repay his faith.
"I know what it means to pull on this jumper and I know what this club means to our fans.''