Short and the tall of it all
Edrick Lee, right and Dimitri Pelo at Raiders training onn Wednesday. Photo: Graham Tidy
One’s a gangly Queensland rookie who is just as adept at slam dunking as scoring tries.
The other’s a short, nuggety Frenchman who has travelled the world waiting for his NRL chance.
Meet Canberra wingers Edrick Lee and Dimitri Pelo, the Raiders’ new ‘‘odd couple’’.
When the pair made their NRL debuts against Souths last week, commentators couldn’t resist having a chuckle at their vastly different body shapes. The 196cm teenager Lee is built like a newborn foal, while 27-year-old Pelo is just 175cm.
And while their paths to the big time are just as different, both are desperate to make the most of their unexpected chance.
Lee turned his back on a promising basketball career to play league, and is a rough diamond brimming with potential.
Interestingly, Lee is the first ‘Edrick’ to play NRL, while Pelo is the only player from French territory New Caledonia to crack the world’s best league.
Injury to winger Jack Wighton, and Blake Ferguson’s move into the centres, has handed them an opportunity to press their claims.
‘‘I was definitely nervous playing my first ever [NRL] game, just the challenge of being up against grown men who have been there before,’’ Lee said. ‘‘[Raiders hooker] Travis Waddell said to me ‘this is your chance and all the boys are excited to play with you, and the talent you have in the twenties’.
‘‘He’s one guy I look up to so whatever he says I take it in, he calmed me down and got me excited for the game.’’
Lee lives with fellow indigenous Queenslanders Waddell and Toyota Cup star Malcolm Congoo, which has helped Lee adjust to the capital. ‘‘We just talk about our experiences back home and it makes me feel more comfortable,’’ Lee said.
‘‘In my first year of twenties I was really homesick, and struggled without the parents and that family vibe.
‘‘Hammo [Raiders development officer David Hamilton] pulled me aside and said he sees potential in me, and that if I stuck it out another year who knows what I could be.’’
‘I really took that advice in, and now I’m just blooming at the moment and developing my game to bigger and better things.’’
Pelo grew up on the Gold Coast, and attracted early interest from Cronulla and the Titans. But the former Australian Schoolboy has played most of his football for English Super League outfit Catalans Dragons, where he scored 38 tries in 87 games.
However he refused to give up on his NRL dream, and after solid trial form Raiders coach David Furner offered him a one-year contract.
‘‘I played a fair few big games in the English Super League, but I still got butterflies on the night,’’ Pelo said.
‘‘Everything’s paid off now, I put in the hard yards over the off season and showed what I can do.’’
‘‘[My advice to young players is] if the dream and passion’s still there, don’t give it up.’’
Pelo’s height difference with Lee has sparked some friendly ribbing in Raiders camp, and the pair are bracing for another size mismatch against Wests Tigers tomorrow. Pelo is set to oppose Lote Tuqiri, who boasts a 16cm and 15kg size advantage on the right wing, while Lee will tower over 168cm Matt Utai on the left.
The Frenchman expects to face an aerial assault from Benji Marshall, but he declared he’s up for the challenge.
‘‘It’s a priviliege to be playing against a person [Tuqiri] you’ve been watching since you were little.
‘‘I’ve always been targeted with high cross kicks, I train extra hard, on that and if I don’t get it I’ll just take him off the ball,’’ Pelo laughed.