ABERDEEN boy Alex McKinnon is already living a dream by playing with the Newcastle Knights but hopes 2013 can be something even more special.
The 21-year-old backrower joined the Knights prior to last season from St George-Illawarra so that he could continue his development under coach Wayne Bennett and also to be closer to home.
“It’s only an hour and a half drive from Newcastle to Aberdeen,” McKinnon said.
“I like to go home and see mum and dad and nan.
“My girlfriend is from Denman too.
“I’m fairly family-oriented.”
The Junior Kangaroos and NSW U20s rep started his football with the Aberdeen Tigers before going to Sydney for school.
He was a Knights fan from a young age, like many kids in the Hunter Valley, but got his chance with one of the club’s fiercest rivals.
“I played for the Tigers until under 13s,” he said.
“I started in under 6s or 7s.
“Then I went to boarding school at St Greg’s and St George-Illawarra signed me when I was 14.”
After making his debut with the Dragons in 2010 as a centre, the rangy redhead followed Bennett to the Knights.
Having switched to the second row, where he played all of his junior football, McKinnon made 24 appearances last year.
This year is about improving even more and picking up tips from the more experienced forwards around him.
“You never stop learning,” McKinnon said.
“I’ve only played 20-odd games.
“I’m pretty competitive and I want to learn.
“I’m lucky because I’ve got guys like Willie Mason, Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott here.
“If you can’t learn from those guys and Wayne you shouldn’t be playing footy.
“It’s one of the main reasons I came to the Knights.”
The new season starts with a Monday night game against Wests Tigers on March 11 and, like the rest of his teammates, McKinnon is ready to rip in.
Having missed the top eight last season, one of the main aims is to make the playoffs this season.
“Individually, my goal is to just play consistent first grade,” McKinnon said.
“But my main goal is more of a team thing.
“It’s a tight group and I want us to win games.
“I want to play finals footy so that’s the big goal for me.”
McKinnon got plenty of minutes in Saturday’s trial loss to the Sharks and is a near certainty to at least snare a bench spot for the Tigers game.