Newcastle may only have three wins on the board to start the season but for Leo Thompson, he’s felt like the wins have been coming weekly with more time spent on the field in the NRL.
The 21-year-old former rugby union talent, whose identical twin Tyrone plays for the Chiefs in Super Rugby, is three years into his rugby league career after switching codes in 2019.
It was the late Peter Mulholland, former Raiders recruitment guru, who discovered Thompson and lured him to Canberra before he caught the eye of the Knights last year.
It also meant Thompson left behind his brother, who he'd played alongside since he was five, and family for the first time in his life to embark on his own adventure in another code.
“I still don’t know all the rules, I’m still learning, it’s heaps different to rugby union,” Thompson told NRL.com.
“Understanding the game and getting used to different calls and terminology, that’s what I struggle with the most but I’m loving it and have a really good opportunity here.”
Thompson has experienced a rollercoaster start to his NRL career, originally signing with the Knights on a train and trial contract before landing a fulltime contract in the week leading into round one.
He had a chance to remain at the Raiders before the Knights offered him a clearer pathway to the NRL.
“I liked what their vision was for me. I was on a development contract but they told me it wasn’t a case of if I played first grade but when,” he said.
“I like what Adam [O’Brien] is about, he’s easy to talk to and gives me good advice around how I’m going and where I need to improve.
“It’s also good playing in the middle with guys who have done a lot in the game like Klem (David Klemmer), D-Saf (Daniel Saifiti) and Barney (Mitch Barnett).”
Since moving to Australia, and particularly to league-mad Newcastle, Thompson said the enormity of the code was on par with rugby in New Zealand.
Like many, he grew up idolising the All Blacks while this week's opponents, the Warriors, also had his respect.
“It’s just all rugby over there and the Warriors have a big supporter base too but they’re within the rugby walls,” Thompson said.
“Over here you hardly hear of rugby being on but league is just everywhere. It’s just a buzz being in this environment. I love Newcastle and all the fans who have welcomed me here. Hopefully I’ll be here for a long time.”