Lovett primed for Leichhardt debut
Leichhardt Wanderers junior Kyle Lovett says he can't wait to play his first NRL game on his local ground, while senior man Aaron Woods suggests the Raiders won't know what hit them when the local brigade runs out on Sunday.
Lovett, Woods and Luke Brooks all played junior football for the Wanderers but while the others have tasted NRL football at the traditional venue, this weekend will be NRL rookie Lovett's first top-grade game at the ground.
"Over the moon. It was always a goal of mine as a kid, I dreamed of doing it, and now it's going it happen on Sunday I can't wait," Lovett said this week.
"[I remember] being on the hill with all my mates when I was younger, watching all the boys run down the tunnel and the Tigers song playing always gave me the chills."
He said it's natural for any footballer to get a lift playing on their home ground.
"Just playing there and having the home crowd behind you, family and friends and people you know are there."
While he's about to play his first NRL game at Leichhardt, Lovett said it's a ground he is already very familiar with – and the chance to play alongside childhood friend Curtis Sironen would make the occasion even more special.
"I played junior grand finals there, Harold Matts, SG Ball, all those sorts of things so to play first grade there is a dream come true. I've been playing there since I was 10 years so very familiar and looking forward to it."
As a fellow Leichhardt junior, Woods said he knows how Lovett will be feeling this week.
"I couldn't be prouder for Kyle Lovett, he's one bloke that's born and bred for rugby league. I remember I used to go to games with him when I was younger," Woods said.
"They're not going to know what's hit them come this Sunday."
Woods was delighted with how the young forward pack had progressed following the departures of senior men such as Liam Fulton and Bodene Thompson, naming Lovett and Marty Taupau as two that had really stepped up in 2015.
"'JT' [coach Jason Taylor] showed a lot of faith in the boys and set a lot of structures in place, so to see the boys and the way they're going about it, it's been unreal. JT showed some faith in them and they've got to produce and I think they have so far."
Woods said the side always received a "massive boost" playing at Leichhardt.
"I grew up down the road so I don't need much more of a lift than to say we're playing Leichhardt Oval this weekend. I know a lot of the boys love playing there too," he said.
"The atmosphere of the game is ridiculous – people are right on top of you. It's just an unreal experience there and to be a part of that, it's the best ever."
There has been speculation there may not be many more games played at the historic venue due to funding and leasing arrangements after Balmain Leagues Club surrendered the lease of the ground to Leichhardt Council, and Woods and Lovett added their voices to the chorus hoping something could be done to keep NRL games at the ground.
"It would be upsetting losing that venue, we love playing there, but it's out of our hands," Lovett said.
"We'll see how that goes but we love playing there and we'd hate to lose it."
Woods added: "I've got no idea what they're doing in the background... but I hope for as long as possible we can play at our local grounds like Campbelltown and Leichhardt because as I said the fans are right on top of you.
"Sometimes you play at a big stadium and the fans are further away. If you get 15,000 at Leichhardt or Campbelltown they're just that loud. They're the things you've got to put into context when you're doing those sort of things."