HE’S been identified as a Raiders bolter for next month’s season-opener but Matthew Allwood used 12 months on the sidelines with consecutive knee injuries to ensure he was strong enough to push for an NRL jersey.
The uncapped 21-year-old’s determination and resilience has him in the running for a dream NRL debut when the Raiders open their season against the North Queensland Cowboys.
Allwood gets his chance to impress for the right centre position in tonight’s trial game against the Newcastle Knights at Scully Park in Tamworth.
Allwood is considered a leading contender if Jack Wighton’s switch to five-eighth proves a success.
Recruited from Farrer Agricultural College in Tamworth, the same school which produced former Raiders captain Alan Tongue and representative prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Allwood suffered a setback when he tore the meniscus in his left knee at the end of 2011 while playing for Canberra’s under-20s.
He had further bad luck when he re-aggravated the injury during a training session in early 2012, meaning he was sidelined for almost a year.
Allwood used the time off to add size to his frame, going from a skinny 79kg when he arrived in Canberra to his current playing weight of 89kg.
‘’It was disappointing being out but it gave me the opportunity to work on my weaknesses,’’ Allwood said.
“I was a bit light when I first came down here (To Canberra) so I tried to hit the gym a bit and put on a bit of muscle.
“It’s helped me in the collision and helped me hold my ground with opposition players.’’
Allwood played 40 minutes in the Raiders’ first trial match against the Melbourne Storm to put himself in the frame for an NRL call-up.
Raiders recruitment manager David Hamilton rated Allwood as one of the quickest players at the club when he was in the under-20s and believed the way he had come back from adversity was testament to his character.
“That’s when you find out about players,’’ Hamilton said.
“He just got on with the job and worked hard to get back on the field.
“Last year in the NSW Cup I thought he was one of the best defensive centres in that competition but his attacking abilities was something special in the NYC.’’
Allwood hasn’t had any further problems with his knee and is excited at the prospect of playing in Tamworth for the first time since high school.
“I haven’t been there for two years so it’ll be great to catch up with a lot of mates from there,’’ Allwood said.
“I was pretty pleased with getting a run down in Melbourne and I’m loving being in the first-grade squad.
“There’s an opportunity for myself and anyone else who is going for the position but Ricky (coach Ricky Stuart) hasn’t really said much yet, so I just have to put my head down in the trials and hope for a good outcome.’’