Knights debutant Bradman Best wants to make name for himself

With a name like his, Newcastle's Bradman Best seemed destined to excel at some kind of sport.

It's just not cricket, but rugby league in which the 18-year-old man-child is making his mark.

After dominating his age groups and representing NSW and Australia as a junior, the powerfully packaged outside back will take the next giant stride when he makes his NRL debut for the Knights against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown on Saturday night.

The son of former Manly and London back-rower Roger Best will start on the left wing outside Hymel Hunt, who has moved in one spot to cover the loss of centre Tautau Moga to a hamstring injury.

"Crazy. Just to train with the boys has been pretty special, and to play this weekend is going to be pretty surreal, so it's a dream come true," Best told reporters in Newcastle on Wednesday.

"I'll hopefully go out there and do my job and whatever comes my way, it will sort itself out on the field."

In between battling a series of knee, hamstring, hip and ankle injuries since returning from the Australian Schoolboys tour of England at the end of last year, Best has squeezed in a handful of games for Newcastle's Jersey Flegg and Canterbury Cup NSW teams this season.

A NSW under-16s and under-18s representative in the past two years, he only became eligible for NRL selection when he turned 18 on August 9.

After coach Nathan Brown told him of his call-up on Monday, Best rang his father and mother, Tobi, to break the news. After those calls, the Woy Woy junior asked Knights manager John Thomas if he could organise 40 tickets for family members and friends keen to see him play his first NRL game.

"It's pretty surreal. When I found out I was pretty speechless – big smile on my face – and I'm still buzzing," he said.

"After I found out, I quickly jumped on the phone and firstly rang my Dad. He was pretty chuffed, he was stoked with me, and a bit of emotion there.

"I don't think he had a tear in his eye but I could feel the emotion through the phone. Then I rang my Mum and she burst into tears so it was a pretty cool phone call – I'll never forget it.

"I'm happy to make my Dad proud and follow in his footsteps, and hopefully I follow through and go all the way."

As for the back-story behind his name, Best explained there were no cricket tragics in the family.

Best's grandfather overheard Melbourne and former Manly football manager Frank Ponissi mention the name Bradman while cutting Ponissi's hair, then it was passed on to Roger and an expectant Tobi at a party while names were being discussed for their soon-to-be-born baby boy, and they liked it.

Having grown up at Ettalong Beach, Best was identified after playing for Woy Woy in a junior grand final and he joined the Knights' high-performance unit as a 13-year-old.

His parents made three round trips a week to get him to and from training, then he car-pooled with other Central Coast juniors, and moved to Newcastle in January to train with the full-time squad.

Best has earned rave reviews from his Newcastle and NSW junior coaches, including Mark O'Meley, and the Knights think highly enough of him to have signed him until the end of 2022.

"It is good from my perspective to know they do have that trust and confidence in me, so I just hope I can pull through and perform for the club," Best said.

"I've got to keep training hard, keep a level head, tick the boxes and go from there."

Soon-to-be Knights team-mates Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga are looking forward to playing alongside him on Saturday.

"He's a great player, Braddy. I'm really happy for him to get a debut," Pearce told reporters.

"A lot of people have been talking about his talent for a while, then seeing it at training first-hand, he's obviously a very talented player and this is a good chance for him to come in …

"I'm defending next to him, so I'm glad he's big."

Ponga, who likes to lurk on the left edge when the Knights are attacking, is keen to strike up a combination with the new kid on the wing.

"His attitude's been pretty good throughout the week. He's obviously excited," Ponga told reporters.

"He looks like 30 but he's 18, so he's a big boy, a big strong man, and I'm excited for him.

"Playing on the wing, he'll be fine there. I might throw him the ball if he's in a good position.

"It would be awesome if he scores a try. He might just do it on his own – a 100-metre try."

The Knights must win on Saturday to retain any hope of sneaking into the finals but Best was trying not to put himself under any extra pressure.

"I haven't really thought about it too much, trying to keep a clear head, but I do know the expectations," Best said.

"It's a do-or-die game for us boys, but hopefully we'll get the job done."