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As far as debut seasons at a new club go, 2015 was huge for Bulldogs winger Curtis Rona. 

Moving from Townsville to Sydney with wife Jacinta in name of his NRL career Rona finished up second on the top try-scorers list last year and earned a start in New Zealand's squad for their UK tour.

However with the birth of his child imminent while on tour Rona sacrificed any chance he had to play for New Zealand to be by his heavily pregnant wife's side back in Australia. The result, baby Sapphire.  

"It's the best feeling being a dad. I didn't know what to do when the little bubba came out. I was away for three-and-a-half weeks and my wife called me and she felt like the baby was going to come any second," Rona said.

"So I approached [New Zealand coach] Stephen Kearney and asked him if I could leave a week earlier, and he turned to me and said 'you go be with your family, there's no problems with you leaving'. 

"I have that much respect for Stephen for that. Being in that environment and to train with some of the best players was awesome for me so hopefully I get to play in the black jersey in the mid-year Test. It would be an awesome achievement for me."

After minor knee surgery in the weeks following the birth of his little girl Rona could hardly contain his excitement for the Bulldogs' season-opener on Friday night. 

"When you have a baby it's a game-changer," Rona said.

"I was grateful and when I see her every morning she just gives me the biggest smiles. That's what lights up my world and that's what gets me going – that's a lot of motivation for me."

Fellow Bulldogs winger Sam Perrett is expecting big things from the 23-year-old in 2016.

"Curtis has already shown what he can do which is amazing. I think he was the leading try-scorer for us last year, and that's only the start of it. The sky is the limit for this guy," Perrett said.

"He has all the physical abilities and he's a good guy. All the boys get along with him. He has his new family here so I'm sure it's going to be extra motivation for him. 

"Who knows how far he can go? It was a bit of a bummer he didn't get to put on the Kiwi jersey last year but I'm sure that's not far away that opportunity for him."

On the opposite end of the scale the 21-time New Zealand international Perrett is enjoying the spoils of being the oldest member of the Bulldogs' squad.

"You have to enjoy every stage of your life I suppose and I just try to get as many benefits out of it as I can. Half a day off here and a rest here, a little bit more physio treatment there so that's the way I see it," Perrett said.

"Naturally you're not going to recover as well as you did before when you were younger. But there are always positives and blessings at different stages of your life so I'm definitely grabbing as much as I can."

This article first appeared on

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.