Rising Parramatta Eels star Dylan Brown eyes code switch to fulfil All Blacks dream

Dylan Brown’s immediate focus won’t waver from the NRL premiership, but the Parramatta playmaker has hinted at switching codes “down the track” to fulfil his ambition of representing the All Blacks.

Brown, who returned from an ankle injury ahead of schedule last weekend, has already committed his future to the Eels until the end of 2023. The 20-year-old will again partner Mitchell Moses in Saturday night’s semi-final against South Sydney, with the winner taking on Penrith for a grand final berth the following week.

Brown played union and league in his native New Zealand during his teens, ultimately opting to focus on the latter. The decision paid off handsomely. Brown shifted to Australia to finish off his schooling at the Hills Sports High School, rose through the Eels ranks and is considered one of the most promising five-eighths in the NRL.

However, having grown up an avid All Blacks fan, Brown said he would consider switching back to the 15-man game, with a view to representing New Zealand in a World Cup.

“Yeah, 100 per cent. That’s probably the best thing you can do in team sport from my point of view, winning the Rugby World Cup,” Brown told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Who knows? I will definitely keep my books open if the All Blacks want me. [Laughing] If the All Blacks scream my name, I’ll definitely be running. I’m open to anything.”

The Hikurangi Stags junior said he prioritised rugby league when faced with a decision over which code to pursue because it provided a clearer pathway to the elite ranks.

“I was playing everything, other sports as well like touch,” he said. “I got to intermediate, so I was about 12 and started playing league at school to get days off.

“I played club when I was 14 and, when I was 15, I picked rep league instead of rep rugby, I had to pick one. I got picked in the nationals there.

“Rugby is harder, you have to wait longer for your opportunity, whereas league I was 15 and got picked up.

“I know some of my [rugby] mates were the best in New Zealand and they still haven’t been given a crack and they are 20 or 21 and still waiting their turn.”

Brown said the chance to travel the globe was another benefit of union.

“Just in terms of travelling, in the NRL you don’t get as much," he said. “Rugby is pretty cool. That’s one thing I enjoy most about rugby, it’s the teams they play against, like England and South Africa.

“When you play in South Africa you learn about South Africa, same with [other countries] … Doing the haka, all that stuff is awesome.

“[I’ll consider it] down the track. I’ve got three more years here. I just want to focus on that and when the time comes I’ll be ready [to make a decision].”

Asked who his favourite rugby players were, Brown said: “If I wasn’t naming a superstar like Dan Carter - everyone wants to be Dan Carter - all the Smiths. Conrad, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith are all good players.

“I like those hard players, not necessarily those [flashy ones].”

Brown’s interests aren’t limited to the rugby codes. In a bid to stay occupied in lockdown, he created a clothing label, We The North. The brand is a nod to his heritage in northern New Zealand and he operates it with his mother and brother from Sydney.

“I don’t make it so that only people from the north can wear it, everyone can wear it,” he said. “It just gives me an extra drive to make it and has a bit more meaning behind it.”

Brown is also proud of his Samoan heritage, but will elect to represent New Zealand if given the opportunity at international league level.

“I was born and raised in New Zealand,” he said. “I talked to Dad and asked him and he said ‘whatever makes you happy son'. I want to play for the Kiwis.”