KNIGHTS recruit David Fa’alogo is no stranger to the NRL but he does have a point to prove
The former New Zealand international forward signed for Newcastle after three years playing for Huddersfield in England and tomorrow night’s trial game against the Sharks in Tamworth is a chance for him to show that he deserves a starting spot back in the top grade.
He will vie for a front row spot with the likes of Willie Mason, Kade Snowden and Adam Cuthbertson.
“I’ll play front row and maybe a bit of loose forward (lock), somewhere in the middle,” Fa’alogo said. “There’s some competition in our squad and you have to do your best at training, which we do.
“Then it comes down to trials and you have to put your best foot forward to get that starting spot. I plan to do that.”
Taking on a strong Cronulla pack may be the perfect opportunity for the Knights’ big men to show what they can do.
With internationals like Paul Gallen and Chris Heighington and big boppers like Andrew Fafita and Ben Ross in the Sharks pack, it could be a bruising affair.
“Every team in the NRL has big forwards,” Fa’alogo said. “It’s a challenge for us. But we have a good pack as well.”
Fa’alogo is now 32 and one of the older members of the Knights squad.
Newcastle has one of the most experienced sides in the competition with the likes of Kurt Gidley, Mason and Timana Tahu now in red and blue.
In what is becoming a younger man’s game, there is still an important place for the more experienced player.
“If you look at every NRL club there’s half a dozen or more older players who have got the experience,” Fa’alogo said. “It’s pretty priceless, that experience.
“The NRL is bringing younger players through all the time, and they’re only getting younger. For the older players to still be around and playing is a credit to them. It’s a challenge for us guys but we also show the younger boys the ropes as well.”
The Knights also have one of the most experienced and most respected coaches in the history of the sport.
Wayne Bennett was a major factor in Fa’alogo joining Newcastle and has already made an impression on the Kiwi forward.
“To get an opportunity in the NRL was a bonus itself,” Fa’alogo said. “But on top of that to be coached by Wayne Bennett, it’s the icing on the cake. He’s probably the top coach that I’ve been under and I’ve had a few coaches in my time.
“To get a chance to play under Wayne at the back end of my career is nice.”
Fa’alogo grew up in New Zealand but got his chance in the NRL at South Sydney where he played for seven years.
After three years with Huddersfield he is re-adjusting to the climate and the NRL system.
“It’s about 30 degrees warmer,” Fa’alogo said. “But it was different (in England). It’s an experience. In rugby league and other professional sports like rugby union you get to see that side of the world and that’s something I wanted to do.”
But now he is happy to be in Newcastle where life is “cruisier and more laid back”, compared to Sydney.
It is little wonder then that he is happy to be in Tamworth this week.
The Knights trained at Jack Woolaston Oval yesterday morning before splitting up to visit a number of Tamworth primary schools.
They train again at Scully Park this morning from 9am in their last run before tomorrow night’s game.
Cronulla has left Luke Lewis out of its 25-man squad but he may still play if he recovers from injury.