Tamworth’s Mitchell Henderson and Inverell’s Ethan Campbell are charging towards their NRL dreams.
The talented teenagers are among 33 players being put through a gruelling two-day camp at Farrer as part of the Newcastle Knight’s Elite Pathways Development program.
Both are in their first year of the program which is designed to identify, and develop players to feed into the club’s elite program, and is a stepping stone to them realising their NRL ambitions.
For Henderson the camp continues what has been a “very busy” couple of weeks.
He spent last week in Mackay playing for NSW Combined High Schools at the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League Championships.
The Blues’ campaign was “not the best”.
“We lost our first game against Queensland and lost against CCC (Combined Catholic Colleges),” he said.
Facing CCC again in the semi-finals they were up 8-nil before fading in the last 10-15 minutes and going down 10-8. They did finish on a positive note “smashing” Combined Independent Schools (CIS).
It was a good finish for Henderson too, who felt he had a really good game.
The Farrer student played in the halves.
“The first game I was a bit shy and nervous, and a bit cautious. But it got better and better and by the end I was very comfortable,” he said.
He said it was a “privilege” to be there, and learnt a lot.
“The biggest thing I took away is not being shy. Get out and play and don’t second guess yourself. They’ve picked you for a reason,” Henderson said.
The 15-year-old was also handed the honour of captaining the side.
“That was something special,” he said.
“I didn’t expect it at all.”
Also handy with a Gilbert, enroute back to Tamworth Henderson stopped in at Sydney to suit up for the NSW Country under-15s rugby union side at the Regional Championships.
That was more just a bit of fun though.
The camp is his first involvement in the Knights program and he is just taking it one step at a time.
“It’s great, but there is a long way to go. I’m only 15,” Henderson said.
His plan is to just “keep learning everything I can”.
Campbell is similarly circumspect.
“It’s (NRL) always been a dream since I was a kid but there’s a long way to go yet,” he said.
It has been whirlwind couple of months for the Year 12 Inverell High student after learning of his selection in the program.
“I couldn’t believe it at first. It took a while to sink in,” he said.
He’ll move down to Newcastle in November.
“It’s good. I like it that I know where I’m going,” the 17-year-old said.
A front rower by trade, Campbell was put into the backrow when he started playing for the Inverell Hawks first grade side, and hasn’t looked back.
He also plays for the Hawks under-18s and picked up the one point in their thrilling one point win over Moree on Saturday.
The camp is being held at Farrer as part of an allegiance between the Knights and the school.
“We’re in the throws of developing a long-term relationship with the school,” Knights elite pathway recruitment manager Troy Pezet said.
“Obviously the Hunter and North West it’s quite strong for rugby league and they’ve got wonderful facilities.
“They just miss that NRL exposure.”
He said over the next three-five years the club are looking to build a stronger relationship with Farrer, which Pezet will mean a stronger pathway too.