Tough losses steeled Lamb for greater things
Young Knights star Brock Lamb has certainly been through more in his young NRL career to date than most players at the same age. But the 20-year-old says he is glad to have taken such a rocky path as it galvanised him and he is already reaping the rewards.
The West Maitland Reddogs junior made his NRL debut last year at 19 and has played all bar one game for his club this year as a starting half, a position where 22 is considered young and most players don't really hit their straps until their mid-20s.
Three weeks ago he had just two wins from 20 starts, including a stack of games in which his team had led at half-time this year.
Excruciatingly, those losses included a Round 16 capitulation against the Dragons from 28-10 up at half-time and a gutting 20-18 loss to the Bulldogs after leading 18-8 with four minutes to go.
The Bulldogs loss, in particular, was tough for Lamb; required to roll the ball into touch on the final play of a set to wind the clock down and seal the win with his team still up 18-14, his kick somehow found the shins of Dogs half Moses Mbye who trapped the ball and streaked away to score the match-winner.
In a stunning sign of maturity for one so young, not only did Lamb not shy away from any criticism in the aftermath but put his hand up to face media in the days after the match. The kid has hardly put a foot wrong since and has been right at the forefront of his team's remarkable recent three-game winning run.
"This is what life's about; it knocks you down but you've got to get back up and keep going," Lamb told NRL.com after orchestrating Friday night's stunning 29-10 upset of Parramatta.
"It builds character and it just shows the good group of boys I've got beside me and all the coaching staff that's helped me through a tough year.
"It's been tough but I wouldn't have taken any other road."
 Lamb Brock - Knights
To have come into a team where wins have been so hard to come by early has only built his hunger and given him an appreciation of how hard wins are to achieve, Lamb added.
"This is the road I wanted coming into the NRL. The team was struggling and I've started to learn how important wins are and I get to enjoy them a lot more rather than going into a team that's winning and it's easy," he said.
"I've talked to plenty of players who say the wins are not easy and you've got to enjoy them. It's been tough but I wouldn't have taken any other road."
Of his mature response to the Bulldogs game, Lamb seemed almost – if you'll pardon the pun – sheepish that his volunteering for media afterwards was considered noteworthy.
"Yeah I did [volunteer]. That's just footy to me," he shrugged.
"Obviously it was disappointing and I let the boys down and whatnot but if I hadn't have done that I wouldn't have been able to close the game out like I did [against Parramatta]. Everything's a learning curve in life and I'm only young, I just have to keep ticking away and take the bad times with the good times I guess."
Lamb's recent form in response to tough times earlier in the season drew strong praise from his coach Nathan Brown after the Eels game.
"He's had some good games of late, Brock," Brown said.
"He's been through some ups and downs in a tough situation but [against Parramatta] he created two tries then scored one himself and he kicked really well."
Brown said now it was up to the young half to build consistency in those performances.
"We've always known he's got some talent... I don't think the talent bit's surprising us, the fact he's maturing a bit quicker than what a lot of us thought is the key.
"He's made some really good progressions in his game and we're really happy with his progress. He certainly went through some tough times, the whole club has. A lot of the younger blokes have been through some tough times.
"He's played in a position which is far harder to play in than a lot of others I suppose and the fact he's come out the other side and shown the signs which we were all hopeful of is a really good reward for him."