Blood of a fighter: Josh Addo-Carr on his inspiring grandfather

Wally Carr, the Australian boxing warrior of the 70s and 80s, remains convinced that Brad Fittler has a spot set aside for his only grandson, Josh Addo-Carr, in this year's NSW team for the State of Origin opener.

If he hasn't, he should, insists Carr, who shares a strong, enduring bond with the Melbourne Storm flyer, who will try and continue his wonderful string of Origin auditions against the Titans in Brisbane on Saturday.

"Brad Fittler, he's a gentleman. Brad Fittler loves him. And I think he [Josh] can rise to the occasion," Carr beamed as he spoke to Fairfax Media.

"People say he gets out of position, that he can't tackle. It's the same as fighting – when the occasion comes, you rise to the challenge. I know he can do it."

Carr knows a bit about rugby league and a lot about the fight game. For most of his life, the two have been ever-present. His first bout was at the South Sydney leagues club in 1971, his last at Canberra's Bruce Stadium in 1986.

All up, he fought 100 times, winning 53, losing 38 and finishing nine in a draw. There were 27 foes that didn't make it up from the canvas, while his passport ended up with stamps from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Indonesia and Zambia.

Nine years after Wally hung up the gloves, Josh Addo-Carr arrived into the world. His granddad – his Pop – would become one of his biggest fans. In turn, Addo-Carr considers him a role model and a sporting hero.

"He fought in 100 professional fights. He went straight to being a pro when he was 17 years of age. He fought in a heap of divisions, fought all over the world. In his era, there was some racism so he didn't really get recognised as much as he should have," Addo-Carr says.

"My Pop won so many titles but never really got recognised. I'm so proud to have his blood running through my veins. He deserves any praise he gets.

"You ask anyone. He was one of the best in the world. I'm very proud to be his grandson. He's my hero, a role model and a person I look up to. I always wanted to be like him – just not in boxing."

Carr reflects on his career with pride but a fighter's regret. He left the ring basically bereft, he says, with little but memories and scars to tell the stories of his struggles and victories.

Even then, he found the money to promise a young Addo-Carr five dollars when he scored a try as a kid. As he is in the NRL, there were times when he was simply too prolific for Carr to cough up right away.

"I never made any money out of fighting. I retired with nothing and I've still got nothing," Carr says. "But I promised him a few bucks, maybe five dollars a try.

"He'd never let me forget it after the game either. Pop! Pop! Pop! I think he scored three tries one day. I didn't have the cash on me. I wouldn't be able to afford it these days."

Another fiver: Josh Addo-Carr scores in the corner for the Storm.

Not many would. Addo-Carr has already scored 11 tries this season. He's more of a throwback to the days when wingers where whippets instead of giants, gifted with pace and athleticism and an instinctive feel for the game.

Would that talent have made Addo-Carr a natural in the boxing ring?

"I've trained with him a couple of times but my passion is football," Addo-Carr says. "He [Wally] knew that. It never mattered to him, as long as you stick to something and work hard at it.

"Boxing is a lonely sport. Maybe that's why I don't like. It's very tough. I don't know how they do it, to tell you the truth."

Carr has a similar take… and couldn't help but throw in a little dig at the same time. Josh is a winger, after all.

"I told him 'no way you're getting into that'. I taught him how to defend himself but that was about it. Plus, you can't go to the wing for a spell in the boxing ring."

Pride: Josh Addo Carr in Melbourne’s Indigenous jersey.

Barring an unlucky injury, Addo-Carr looks to be burning his way to a Blues jumper. As the NRL celebrates its Indigenous Round, Addo-Carr notes all of his football role models have played in the interstate series.

His time looks certain to have arrived. He shapes as a potential match winner for a Blues side desperate for a few new heroes, while Queensland know he is a man to be feared when tired legs start to carry heavy bodies.

No bones about it, there would be tears, Addo-Carr says; from his family, friends and of course his grandfather, whose eyes almost water over when he watches a Storm game on the television.

"Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Matty Bowen, Nathan Merritt … all heroes to me. I grew up in Redfern. All of those players I love watching, especially Matty Bowen. He had freakish skills. I loved to watch all of those players.

"He'd [Wally] be proud, very proud. My whole family would be proud. I can't believe the talk, that it's my name being tossed around.

"I reckon there would be a tear… I'm a very emotional person. That's why you play, to be the best player and person you can be."

Addo-Carr struggled for regular playing time at the Wests Tigers before taking the leap and moving to Melbourne at the start of 2017, where he would become yet another project player for Craig Bellamy.

Now, he's on the cusp of Blues selection, a childhood dream he never let slip out of sight even when his career looked to have hit some roadblocks.

"No matter what anyone said, I always believed in myself. I knew if you worked hard at what you love you can achieve your dreams. I don't take no for an answer I suppose. It's all shaped me into the man I am today," Addo-Carr says.

"I'm so grateful."

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