Nathan Blacklock's backflips and sizzling tries are some of the most joyous moments in the short history of the St George Illawarra joint venture. His career is an inspiration to modern-day players, particularly Indigenous players.
But he has spoken out for the first time about the sadness behind the smile.
Nathan Blacklock’s says a teammate’s racist comments soured his time at the Dragons.Credit:Action Photographics
"I've kept this secret for all these years," he said. "But the reason I lost my passion for the Dragons and left the club was because of racism. It came from the worst place possible – within our team environment.
"The vast majority of those I played with and was coached by were great – not a problem – but there was an element there that hurt me. I remember them talking about my good mate Preston [Campbell] and he would say, 'Get that little black c—'.
"That was like a dagger to my heart. I kept that pain to myself.
"The person who had the [racist] streak knows who it is. I don't know if he knows it drove me away from the club, but I saw him at a function recently and he couldn't look at me."
So why didn't Blacklock, who was a fan favourite on his way to 121 tries in just 142 NRL games, speak up?
"I wanted to play first grade and didn't want the attention that speaking out then would have brought," he said.
"My dad always told me to just keep my head down and do my job, but I feel times have changed now. I work with people from all races and all areas in my job with suicide prevention. It's time to be true to myself and speak up in case anyone else is going through it.
"Those boys shouldn't worry about their positions in the team. And I hope race never, ever picks a team."
Blacklock was granted a release from the Dragons in 2002 and joined the NSW Waratahs.
Part of the reason for his code swap was due to being overlooked for the NSW Origin side, despite being the NRL's leading tryscorer three years in a row, from 1999 to 2001. There was a belief that race played a part.
After a short, and largely unsuccessful, stint in rugby, Blacklock returned to the Dragons in 2003, but he never quite reproduced his stunning stretch from 1998-2001 where he crossed 96 times in 102 matches.
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