Outhouse to penthouse for young Knights
Within the space of a week several Knights, including young gun Jake Mamo, were left to lament Newcastle's NRL wooden spoon finish one day and found themselves playing finals football the next.
Since becoming an integral member in Newcastle's NSW Cup premiership-winning run and now gearing up for the NRL State Championship against Intrust Super Cup champions Ipswich Jets on Sunday, Mamo's emotions have taken a battering.
The Knights were the first team since Eastern Suburbs in 1949 to win the wooden spoon in first grade and the reserve grade premiership in the same season.
Along with Joe Tapine, Sam Mataora, Danny Levi and skipper Clint Newton, Mamo has had to keep his head switched on over the past month, faced with a predicament no one for at least 66 years has had to deal with.
"It was weird personally for me. One week we had won the wooden spoon and then the next week I was playing semi finals football, I had to put it behind me as fast as I could to focus on the job at hand," Mamo told NRL.com.
"I've thought about it in the days since winning the grand final. It's a different feeling going from wooden spooners to premiers in a matter of four weeks because they're quite different emotions you have to manage there.
"Hopefully it goes to show the talent coming through the club and we can turn around our wooden spoon season in the coming years."
The Knights' success in the lower grades is very much a reflection of hard work interim coach Danny Buderus put in to instil positive influences at the club over the final weeks of the NRL season, with that attitude filtering through the grades.
"Danny was drilling in the concept of the winning culture into the club. And I thought we started to put that into practice with a couple of wins and a few good performances, so with our NSW Cup win now, it'll all just help us build towards next year," Mamo said.
"[The wooden spoon] wasn't what I wanted in my second year in the NRL, and it's a tough thing to take but it's a matter of getting back into pre-season and doing a better job next year."
When asked about the Knights' clash with Ipswich, Mamo wasn't threatened by the Jets' unique style of play despite their knack for throwing the ball around, short kick-offs and frivolous care for completion rates – but was excited for the biggest moment of his young career.
"I had a little bit of a look on YouTube the other day because I had heard a lot of hype about them, so I went and looked up what all the fuss was about. And they seem to play an interesting style of football but that won't change the way we play," Mamo said.
"It seems like it has worked because they've won a premiership though. You can't fault them really [whether it'd work in the NRL] because they won a premiership with it.
"What I'm expecting though is the biggest footballing occasion and biggest stage I've played on in my career. Being a curtain raiser to the first grade there is probably going to be a fair few people there by that stage. I can't wait to get out there."