The homesickness that forced Loomberah farm boy Jack Cameron to cut short a stint with Brisbane club Norths last year has been replaced by the “nervous” excitement the teen feels ahead of his Newcastle Knights under-20 debut this weekend.
Signed to a two-year deal at the Knights after starring in North Tamworth’s grand final defeat of Narrabri last September, the raw-boned, tall prop has been named on the bench for Saturday’s Jersey Flegg clash against Canterbury at Belmore Sports Ground.
Helping Cameron, who recently turned 19, adjust to life in the big smoke is his former Farrer classmate and teammate Hayden Loughrey, the Knights’ Gunnedah-raised under-20 halfback who is now in his second season at the club. They are living together with another Newcastle teammate, Blayney winger Lachie Farr.
“He's [Loughrey] sort of helped me along the way and told me what’s the go, what’s happening,” Cameron said.
Many talented young footballers who came home after failing to transition from country to city life never returned to the bright lights to have another crack. Brad McManus, Cameron's coach at the Bears last season, didn’t want the teen to suffer the same fate.
Cameron said he came on to the Knights’ radar because McManus contacted the club and told them about him. Cameron believes that Knights officials watched a live stream of last season’s grand final.
He was subsequently invited to trial at the Knights, which led to a “training trial” with the club’s under-20 squad and then the contract. His former Farrer and North Tamworth teammates, Max Altus and Alek Hall, were involved in the Knights’ most recent under-18 summer development squad.
Cameron described his decision to return home from Brisbane last year as the “best thing that has ever happened to me” football wise. “I wasn’t feeling comfortable up in Brissie, so I came home,” he said.
The move gave him the chance to mature as a person and a player – the seven games he spent packing down in Norths’ front-row invaluable, after being elevated from under-18s.
He has dreamed of playing NRL since childhood, but doubted he would get this close to realising the dream. “I sort of wanted it but I didn’t really ever think it would happen, until it started.”
His selection for the round 11 clash against the Bulldogs suggests he is adjusting well to life at the Knights. “When I started it was hard, but I’m getting used to it now.”
Watching him play on Saturday will be his family – dad David, mum Mary-Ann, elder brother Blake and elder sister Sophie.