Knights hooker Chad Redman has described his NRL debut as a "dream", and even admitted he almost shed a tear during his jersey presentation before the game, after scoring the match-sealing try in Newcastle's 22-12 win over the Wests Tigers.
A born-and-bred Novocastrian from nearby Shortland, Redman has been a Knights supporter his entire life and the chance to play and represent his home town was something he had been working towards since he was 15 – when he first represented the club in the Harold Matthews competition.
Having since plied his trade in Newcastle's Holden Cup and NSW Cup teams, Redman was told of his inclusion in the team during the captain's run on Saturday when regular rake Adam Clydsdale pulled out with a shoulder injury.
Capping of a memorable day after he buried his way over the try line in the dying stages to confirm Newcastle's first win in six weeks – Redman said he was encouraged by one of the club's finest ever hookers to "go for gold".
"'Bedsy' [Knights assistant coach and club legend Danny Buderus] snuck around to me on the short side and told me to 'take my opportunities'. I saw the Tigers had a marker down so I took the chance and I just remember seeing the ground so I went for gold and I was able to get it down which I'm stoked about," Redman said.
"Bedsy actually presented me my jersey before the game too and I was nearly emotional in the room when he did. I was overawed by the experience and I'm sort of just taking it all in now and trying to keep my head screwed on."
"I'm living the dream at the moment. I'm still in wonderland. To represent my home town in front of all those people was unbelievable."
Adding plenty of enthusiasm in the middle of the park for the Knights when he came on midway through the first half, Redman was overall pleased with his game and said he made it his mission not to change anything from how he would usually play in the lower grades.
Knights captain Kurt Gidley backed the 22-year-old after his fantastic debut too and credited the Wests Newcastle junior for his hard work over the past seven seasons.
"Chaddy's a guy who every year, every pre-season, has turned up and trained hard, trained well and been a real toiler since he's been a kid so he's probably be waiting for this chance the past couple of years," Gidley said post-game.
"I know he's trialled in first-grade for the past two-to-three years too and he's kept working at his game and we're all really proud and happy for him. To score one at the end was great for him and it's definitely a great start to his career."
Admitting he was blown away to play with the likes of Gidley, someone he's watched with great delight since he was a boy, Redman went on to add that now he has had a taste of it he definitely wants more time in the NRL.
With a young group of hookers at the club, including regular rake Clydsdale, Tyler Randell and Junior Kiwi Danny Levi, the off-contract Redman – who has a young family to support – said he is happy to keep pushing his case for a first-grade berth in hope of securing his future at the club.
"We have a good hooker group here at the moment and we all keep one another honest – I daresay Adam will be right for the Broncos game [next week] but I'm just glad to be able to put pressure on him," Redman said.
"I'm trying to sort out my future now. I want to play for my home town, but if I put myself in the shop window then I do, but my first preference is to stay here because I just love Newcastle."