Hard work pays off for Knights rookies
Newcastle juniors Sam Stone and Luke Yates will get their first taste in the NRL after Knights coach Nathan Brown named the pair on the bench for their clash with the Warriors in Auckland on Sunday.
Still eligible for Holden Cup, Stone is the son of former Knights coach Rick who took control of the side on 72 occasions and is now the head coach with Huddersfield in the English Super League.
With a strong knowledge of the game, the decision to hand the 19-year-old a first grade debut was an easy one for Brown, who was impressed with how quickly he has transitioned in the top squad.
"Sam’s trained extremely well, he understands the game very well," Brown told Knights TV earlier in the week.
"He’s been around the game his whole life, ever since he’s been born his old man’s probably been coaching so he’s got a nice understanding of the game."
While Stone admits the nerves will be there on game day, for now he is enjoying the week before the flight across the Tasman to tackle the Warriors.
"I’m pretty excited but when the game comes around I’ll be pretty nervous," Stone said in an interview with Knights TV.
"My mum and dad are very proud. My two brothers and mum are coming over to watch and dad will be watching from England."
For teammate Yates, he has had to wait longer for his chance after being in the junior system at the Knights since captaining the Harold Matthews under-16s side back in 2011.
After graduating from Holden Cup, the 21-year-old settled for a year in the Intrust Super Premiership last season and has worked tirelessly in a bid to not give up on a dream debut.
"I’m not really nervous. I say I will be once we run out but I’m just really keen to play and keen to see how this year goes for us," Yates told Knights TV.
"I felt good in the Nines and in the Canberra trial, and I’ve been training for three years full-time so I think I am ready."
The perseverance and determination from the Western Suburbs Rosellas junior has even surprised the coach, who admits Yates was not on the radar 12 months ago.
"He’s certainly made some adjustments in some areas which certainly proved me wrong,” Brown said.
"This time last year I honestly wouldn’t have thought he’d be playing first grade.
"In September and October when a lot of people were holidaying, I don’t think he missed a day’s training.
"He’s made some really good improvements and he’s such a determined type of kid and I don’t think there is a person in the club that doesn’t want to see him there.
"People that are determined and hungry can prove you wrong and as a coach, I’d rather be proven wrong sometimes."