Rajab hopes the Bulldogs will make him an offer they can’t refuse after their World Cup campaign

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He had almost no experience. You could say it lacked size. But you can never accuse the young Bulldogs and Lebanese star Khaled Rajab of lack of confidence.

The diminutive, bearded, ponytailed playmaker was one of the leading stars of the Rugby League World Cup with Lebanon and is now just waiting to make his NRL debut with the Canterbury Bulldogs. The Roar He said winning the top spot in 2023 is his number one priority.

“It’s 100% the intention to make the NRL,” said the teenage half, who rose to prominence after making his Ireland debut in the Cedars’ second game.

“I have targets for 2022 and one of my targets for 2023 is to make my debut and if I can achieve that I will be very grateful. Even if I play consistently in the NSW Cup, it will be very good for me.

“I’ve got to talk to (Cameron) Ciraldo and Gus (Gould) and see what the future holds for me, but I’ve got a pre-season game with the Bulldogs and we’ll see how that goes.

“Whatever they choose, I will have full faith in them. I hope they believe in me too.”

Rajab is now preparing for pre-season training with the Bulldogs, his first with the senior squad since coming through the junior ranks. He is a Bulldogs legend who played his first game at Belmore aged just two and joined the junior system aged four.

The playmaker was their SG Ball Player of the Year in 2021, started 2022 at the Jersey Flag and ended it in the NSW Cup Grand Final – before a late call-up to the Lebanon squad for the World Cup, where he immediately caught the eye.

The next goal is the NRL. There, Rajab looks to emulate Lebanese and Bulldogs teammate Jacob Kiraz, one of the first 2022 players.

Known as the “King of Lebanon” by fans of the Cherry Doggies, Rajab, nicknamed “DJ” before the tournament, said he took on another moniker on tour.

“I’m the godfather!” he joked. “I have the strongest hair in the game!

“I’m grateful that people love me, see me and make me proud to have my name out there.

“I just want to be a role model for young Lebanese children. Their parents think you can’t make it, and I want to show kids that if you put in the work, you will get results.

I am grateful for all the support systems around me. I also know some of the Lebo guys in my club. I had to work hard during Covid, I knew that if you work hard, you will get results.

“I’m grateful that people are rooting for me, seeing me, and it makes me proud to have my name out there.”

From the moment he landed in Manchester, he looked like a star: Rajab impressed in the Test win over Wales, lost to the Kiwis and then exploded in the tournament against Ireland, Jamaica and finally the Kangaroos.

It was no surprise that coach Michael Cheika and assistants Matt King and Robbie Farah immediately spotted the raw talent in Rajab.

“I was shocked when they told me I was going to play for the first time,” he said. “I came here to learn about Mitch Moses and Adam Doueihi, so when they told me I was playing, I just wanted to prove to everyone that I belonged here. I hope I did it.

“I learned a lot from Mitch and Adam, especially as a half. Game management, good sets and stuff like that. It was very good.

“When I was young, I always played what I saw. Young Lebanese children, all we do is play footstool in the yard. When you put it into play now – we obviously have a structure, but I’ll take it when I see something.

“I am very grateful and humbled to have someone like Cheika. When he has confidence in me, playing gives me a lot of confidence. So much confidence.

“He was incredible. We have Kingy pulling the strings behind the scenes and Cheika mentally ready. I’ve never been as mentally prepared for a game as I am in these World Cup games. He makes you believe you are better than you are.

This is what a good head coach needs and he has it.”

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