MITCH, KALYN & STRETCHER BEDS
I started my Newcastle career in the first week of December.Â The coaches eased me into the work for the first week or so but then it got serious.
We had a mini army camp set up at MacDonald Jones Stadium. It was one of theÂ hardest things Iâ€™ve done in my life. The physical stuff was brutal but the boys gotÂ through it. At one point, we had to carry around 100-plus kilo stretcher beds all day.Â It was torture but I actually enjoyed it.
All of it brought the squad closer together. We learned heaps about each other.Â It feels as though I have started first grade all over again here at the Knights. I needÂ to put on a few kilos before the season begins â€“ training has been that tough â€“ but Iâ€™llÂ be more than ready to start the season.
In terms of our playing group, the respect the players have for Pearcey as ourÂ captain is awesome. The people of Newcastle love him, too.
Watch him train and itâ€™s easy to see why heâ€™s one of the best halfbacks in the gameÂ â€“ his vision, the way he sees the game, the way he makes everyone around himÂ better. Heâ€™s also a great leader. I love the way he interacts with every squad memberÂ â€“ and he has the fire burning to win a comp up here. Iâ€™m excited to be playingÂ alongside him.
Everyone keeps asking about Kalyn Ponga.Â Whatâ€™s he like? How heâ€™s going to go in his new position at six?Â Iâ€™m as impressed with Kalyn as Iâ€™ve ever been about a young player on the rise. HeÂ has it all. His ball execution, the way he moves, that crazy sidestep.Â Heâ€™s a natural footy player with a lot still to learn. Itâ€™s a bit scary.
At five-eighth, Kalynâ€™s obviously getting a lot more ball than he did at fullback, whichÂ can only be a good thing. He has been working hard on his defence and doing well.Â He hasnâ€™t tackled me yet but he has decked a few of our backrowers without anyÂ problems.
Overall weâ€™ve got a really strong roster heading into 2019 and, like the fans, I amÂ confident we are heading for a successful period. Nearly all of these young blokesÂ have been thrown in at the deep end over the past couple of years and are betterÂ and more experienced footballers for it.
Someone asked me the other day if Iâ€™d been taking on a father-figure-style role at theÂ club this season. That caught me off-guard a bit! I mightâ€™ve played a bit of rep footy but, at the same time, Iâ€™m still only 25 and have plenty more to learn about the game.
Thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m really looking forward to this season â€“ growing as a player andÂ helping my team. And to do it in a fiercely proud footy town like Newcastle? I canâ€™tÂ think of many things better than that.