English Knight Wardle fit and ready
If you told Newcastle Knights recruit Joe Wardle the side had lost 19-straight games prior to their clash with the Gold Coast Titans on the weekend, he would have found it hard to believe you.
The latest English recruit to join the NRL Telstra Premiership arrived in the Hunter in January after gaining a release in a trade-off deal that involved former Knights winger Jake Mamo.
With a knee injury delaying his start to the season, Wardle played his first game on Australian soil in the Knights' 26-18 loss to Wyong in the Intrust Super Premiership on Saturday afternoon.
"It all went pretty good… it was a bit of a shock to the system obviously with the weather but it was nice to get out there with the boys and get some game time under the belt," Wardle told NRL.com
"The club had sunscreen for me as well otherwise I would have been crisp by the end of it.
"When we first came over after Christmas and left England it was minus three, and we got here and it was in the middle of a heatwave with 40 degree days so we didn't know what hit us.
"But it's been a nice change and exactly what I came out for so no doubt we'll get used to it the best we can.
With Knights coach Nathan Brown having strong ties in the English Super League after a successful five years with Huddersfield and St Helens, the 25-year-old is unlikely to be the last UK signing for the Novocastrians.
"It fell into place because [Huddersfield coach] Rick Stone was a big fan of Jake [Mamo] and when he arrived at Huddersfield he wanted him there as soon as possible," he said.
"Rick and 'Browny' (Knights coach Nathan Brown) just had a chat and came to an agreement that we could trade places a year early.
"It's probably the best thing that could've happened to be fair, instead of playing at a club where you know you're going to be leaving.
"It would have been hard for me to stay motivated."
It is new territory for the Knights to search for talent in the Super League, with Wardle the first signing with no NRL Telstra Premiership experience since former Wigan Warriors winger Brian Carney joined the club back in 2006.
He also becomes just the fourth player with a British background to link with the club in their 30-year history.
The first taste of the parochial Newcastle crowd came on Saturday for Wardle, who watched his future teammates run away with an eight-point victory over the Titans in the grandstands.
He admitted it was hard to believe the side had been struggling for over two seasons after Saturday's result, and was blown away by the passion shown at the ground from both the players and fans.
"You wouldn't think it at all [that the team had lost 19-straight], the boys have been spot on with their attitude from the get-go," Wardle said.
"I came just after Christmas but apparently the training before that was outstanding and now it's showing on the field with two close games.
"There is a real belief about the place that we will go a lot better than what previous years have shown.
"'Browny' (Brown) has tinkered with the team a little bit, brought a few people in and let some go so that's helped.
"We're not saying we will top the league, but we think we can push for that finals spot, so the boys have got belief of what we're trying to achieve.
"Rick was telling me about the backstory of Newcastle being the main coach here before, but the thing I found was they're [the fans] real, loyal supporters.
"They're all really friendly as well which is a bonus because back home everyone seems quite moody.
"It shows what loyalty they've got when the boys had a bad year last and still turned out with 12,000 so hopefully we can repay them this season with a few wins on the board.
"We've just got to build on this win now."
Named in the No.19 jersey for their Round 3 clash with the Rabbitohs, the Scottish international has now overcome the knee complaint that required surgery last season, but admitted he was behind others after a limited pre-season.
"The knee is sweet… to be fair I've probably been ready for three weeks but the conditioning staff wanted me to get a few miles under my legs before I'm out on the field," he said.
"I'll probably get a few more games in reggies (Intrust Super Premiership) before I can hopefully get out with the first grade team.
"I prefer back-row but had a lad pull out in reggies so I had to move to centre this week.
"Either way, I'm here to do a job."