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Bulldogs rookie Khaled Rajab has revealed how Lebanon coach Michael Cheika told him he would start against Ireland even if Adam Doueihi had beaten a judiciary charge in a move that has boosted his hopes of an NRL contract.

Rajab starred in Lebanon’s 42-18 triumph at Leigh and Cheika later said that he made the decision to partner the 20-year-old alongside Mitchell Moses in the halves while the Cedars fought a dissent charge against Doueihi.

After captaining Canterbury’s Jersey Flegg team, Rajab played in the NSW Cup grand final against Penrith and he will join the NRL squad for pre-season training under new coach Cameron Ciraldo.

Rajab receives an offload from Kayne Kalache during Lebanon's win against Ireland
Rajab receives an offload from Kayne Kalache during Lebanon's win against Ireland ©Getty Images

“I spoke to him just a little bit before coming over and he said this experience would be good for you,” said Rajab, who starred alongside Canterbury team-mate Jacob Kiraz.

“I have been at the Bulldogs all of my life. I have been playing in their juniors since I was four years old. The phrase, ‘bleed blue and white’, I resonate with that the most.

“I am with them for next year and it is looking good for me. They are putting a lot of faith in me. I have got pre-season, as well.”

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Cheika and his coaching staff, which includes Matt King, Robbie Farah and Newtown Jets assistant Michael Habib, saw Rajab play in the NSW Cup grand final and contacted him about representing Lebanon.

“My mum is Australian and my dad is Lebanese. He was born in Australia but my grandparents were born in Lebanon,” Rajab said.

“My dad took me to my first Bulldogs game when I was two years old so there is no place like Belmore for me. It is my home.

“My parents are Dogs fans, and nothing would make them more proud than to see me play for the Bulldogs and to see me play for Lebanon.”

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With Doueihi appearing before a specially convened judiciary hearing in Manchester last Tuesday night and then lodging an appeal against his ban for abusing NRL referee Grant Atkins, Cheika decided to start Rajab at five-eighth.

“Earlier in the week, regardless of the decision about whether Adam was out or not, he just said he had faith in me and confidence in me and knew I would get the job done for the boys,” Rajab said.

“It gave me heaps of confidence, and all of the boys were backing me and supporting me.”

Cheika said Doueihi would have been on the interchange bench in the unlikely situation the Wests Tigers star had been cleared to play after denying he had made the comments Atkins sent him off for.

Rajab and Lebanon team-mates celebrate Jacob Kiraz's first half try
Rajab and Lebanon team-mates celebrate Jacob Kiraz's first half try ©Getty Images

“This is going to sound really weird, but I think it is the right thing because if the ref said he said it, the game has got to back him up,” Cheika said. “I think that is really important.

“We didn’t feel like that was the case but at the end of the day the game has got to back a ref. If the game doesn’t back the ref what is the point. As much as I disagreed, I agreed.

“Whatever we thought happened, we had an opportunity to make our case and then we got a second opportunity. They supported the referee and I sort of knew that was going to happen.”

Rajab combined with Moses for two of Lebanon’s five tries and laid on another for former Manly winger Abbas Miski, who now plays for Wigan.

“He was outstanding,” Moses said of Rajab. “I think he has a massive future in the game. I think he is at the Bulldogs at the moment. They’re crying out for some halves there.

“If he can step up and play first grade, he will do a great job. He is a great kid and brings a lot of energy. I told him any time you want he ball you demand the ball – and he demanded it.”

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.