ALL he wanted was to play 10 Super League games to prove something to himself.
More than 200 matches later, on a journey that has taken him from life as an apprentice printer in Sydney to such diverse rugby league outposts as Chorley, Rochdale and, of course, Edinburgh tomorrow night, Jason Demetriou has nothing to prove to anyone.
The Wakefield Trinity Wildcats captain will begin a three-month RFL testimonial later this month and you would be hard pressed to find anyone argue the amiable adopted Yorkshireman is undeserving of such reward.
Adored by the Wakefield public after seven seasons of drive and desire in Trinity colours, the indefatigable Australian has won just as many admirers across the sport for his heroic and unstinting feats on and off the field.
Yet Demetriou recalls stepping into the unknown when he and his wife first prepared to make the move to England in 1999.
"I'd never played first grade and sent out videos of me as a semi-pro and amateur," he told the Yorkshire Post.
"I had some conversations with London Broncos' Les Kiss when he was home in Australia and he said he'd sort me out.
"Later, though, he said he was homesick and wasn't going back. We'd booked a plane ticket and were ready to go – we just had no club to go to.
"I didn't realise the season started in December either. I thought it was February. By the time I got over here, the only overseas spot left was at Lancashire Lynx."
It might not have been Super League but a 10-game spell there, under former Wigan and Great Britain full-back Steve Hampson, was long enough for him to impress and earn a deal further up the ladder at Rochdale. Soon after, Demetriou had fashioned himself a contract with Widnes.
"I had three clubs in eight months but was moving forward all the time," he said.
"They were all great but I knew when I came over here clubs wouldn't give their quota spot up to an Aussie who had no first-grade experience – unless I won a Grand Final.
"I did that with Widnes and people began to take notice."
After helping the Vikings win the 2001 Grand Final – converted from stand-off to centre after the signing of Karle Hammond – Demetriou tasted his first spell of Super League before earning the move which would finally give him some roots in England.
Wakefield coach Shane McNally appreciated his hard-running combative style and gave the aspiring player his shot. He grabbed it and, seven years on, has carved out a reputation as one of the competition's most valued operators.
"I was not really expecting it," he admitted, having made the Super League 'Dream Team' in 2007 and coming close to winning the esteemed 'Man of Steel'.
"I hoped it would be a success but all I wanted was to get to a Super League club and try to play 10 Super League games.
"I don't know why 10. I wanted to prove to myself I was
good enough but once I got in that environment I wanted more."
Demetriou, more recently matured into a back-row, has certainly done that and is now synonymous with Wakefield.
Captain for the last four seasons, his impact at the club has been crucial, especially during some testing times.
Inspirational in leading them clear from relegation in 2006, he was also rock-solid in the manner in which he guided his team-mates through the horrors of last season, following the untimely deaths of playing colleagues Adam Watene and Leon Walker.
"It was devastating," Demetriou recollected.
"It was not just losing Adam and Leon but David Topliss as well, three people all too young to pass.
"Everyone rallied around and we came through to record our highest ever finish in Super League of fifth.
"That showed what this club is all about – its camaraderie – and it's the best part of playing for Wakefield.
"All players that play here say it. I'm good friends with Dave Solomona and Gareth Ellis and, for all they've enjoyed playing at other clubs, every time I speak to them they say the friendships have never been better than at Wakey.
"Even though we're having a bad run now, our spirit is probably the best it's ever been.
"We don't have the budget of others so we have to build around others things – like sticking together."
Wakefield, having lost four successive games, including a Challenge Cup exit at Harlequins, must show their resolve tomorrow when they face champions Leeds at 'Magic Weekend'.
"We've beaten them once before already this year," said Demetriou, whose two daughters were both born in Wakefield.
"They probably had a stronger team then as well.
"Our defence has been outstanding the last couple of weeks. We just need to concentrate on executing a bit more.
"If we can do that, we can upset Leeds but the most important thing is that we
want to put on a show; it's the last game on the Saturday night."
It is that selfless attitude that has underpinned Demetriou's time at Wakefield where – now aged 34 – he is out of contract at the end of the season.
"Ideally, I'd like to play another year," he said.
"That would take me to 10 in Super League. That would be fitting.
"I'd also like to represent Greece in their qualifier next year and help them reach the World Cup and, hopefully, play in the last game at Belle Vue before Wakefield move to the new stadium.
"I've got to earn a contract, though. I don't want one because of what I've done in the past."
Do not be surprised to see all Demetriou's wishes come true.
For simply the best coverage of the Murrayfield Magic weekend, don't miss Dave Craven's reports and analysis from all seven games in Edinburgh in a special action-packed publication free inside Sports Monday. Order your copy now.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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