Randell's leadership traits born in McKinnon territory
Aberdeen is McKinnon territory.
The home of former Dragon and Knight Alex McKinnon, Aberdeen's own rugby league field is named after his grandfather Mal.
When McKinnon's NRL career was cut tragically short two years ago, the spirit of the Hunter Valley town – population 2000 – was left in agony.
Since this heartbreaking event, Tyler Randell's star has risen dramatically at the Newcastle Knights.
An Aberdeen Tiger through and through, Randell's 23 NRL games so far have been something locals could latch on to in the aftermath of McKinnon's retirement.
Randell, in just his second full season in the NRL, is now a part of Newcastle's leadership squad – just one of two local juniors in the six-man group.
According to the 23-year-old, his leadership qualities came from playing for Aberdeen where he was coached by Scott McKinnon – Alex's father.
"Growing up it was Alex and I for a couple of years [leading the team]. When Alex left [for boarding school] it was just me. From that I managed to play first grade [Group 21] which readies you for the physical side of things from the get-go," Randell told NRL.com.
"It was a pretty tough competition – when you're a young fella playing first grade back there. Other teams would try and rough you up which definitely got me ready to play for the Knights' junior [teams]."
His debut in the Tigers' first grade team came in the months before Randell's 17th birthday.
You see in Aberdeen, as Randell puts it, rugby league isn't just a game. It's a lifestyle.
"Up in Aberdeen there's not very much to do other than footy. So growing up it was footy every day. No matter if it were summer or winter. We had a pretty good team actually for what was a small town," Randell said.
"We were pretty competitive and I had a good coach who taught me a lot, more about hard work than anything else. Being a leader back home it puts a lot of pressure on you to make sure you're doing the right thing all the time.
"I wouldn't have had the opportunity to come down to Newcastle and play if we didn't have a good team. Playing there helped me get to bigger and better things and I definitely don't take it for granted.
"I still go home to Aberdeen as much as I can and it's not like I've forgotten about them. I still love the club and hopefully one day I can go back and play again."
On the Knights, a team which can only be described currently as inexperienced, Randell is hoping to stand tall in the face of diversity.
"I wasn't expecting it or looking [to be in the leadership group]. It was one of those things that just happened," Randell said.
"I guess for me it came about from leading by example at training and hopefully the way I play.
"I've learnt a lot of things from the older blokes who were at Newcastle, who have now left, so I'm just trying to do [what they did for me]."
Play NRL Round is focussed on encouraging people of all ages – from six to sixty and beyond, to sign up to enjoy their local footy – whether it be playing, coaching, volunteering, or refereeing.
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