The biggest year of Kobe Bone's young life - in which he saw parts of himself he had not "seen before" - has gone from breakneck speed to "chilling" at home in Tamworth as he plots the next move in his NRL quest.
After an impressive debut season for the North Sydney Bears' SG Ball Cup side in 2021, the 19-year-old then made his first-grade debut for the Wyong Roos in the Newcastle competition.
He was playing second-rower for the Roos when the competition was cancelled because of COVID-19 - having relocated to the Central Coast late last year in order to give himself a better chance of making the Bears' SG Ball side.
The former Greater Northern Tiger - in the midst of a carpentry apprenticeship - returned to Tamworth to see out the statewide lockdown.
With Tamworth now out of lockdown, he is back in the gym and eyeing his options for next season as he attempts to keep his NRL dream alive by signing with an NRL club ahead of the 2022 Jersey Flegg Cup season.
He has been joined in Tamworth by his longstanding partner, water polo ace Mikayla Gross, who was living with him in Wyong this year.
"I've been home about a month now, just chilling," he said, adding: "I couldn't do anything down there [the Central Coast]."
As for his playing future, Bone said he was "a bit unsure what was happening".
He said there was a chance he would play Jersey Flegg with North Sydney next year, although he was open to offers from other NRL clubs.
Ideally, he would like 2022 to unfold thus: "start off strong" in Jersey Flegg, then have a "solid year" with Wyong, then find himself on an NRL club's 30-man roster for the 2023 season.
In short, aim big or stay at home.
Bone's education over the past year will aid him substantially as he attempts one of the most difficult summits in Australian sports.
The experience, he said, had "shown me what it takes to make it and shown me parts of myself I haven't seen before".
Bone was 18 when he debuted in first grade for the Wyong Roos. He described his stint at the club as "very tough".
He could "hardly walk" after games, he said, adding that the competition was "a lot tougher" than SG Ball.
The teen is now preparing for preseason training ahead of the 2022 season.
"It's good that Tamworth's out of lockdown so I can go to the gym," he said, "because down on the Central Coast there's nothing [open]."
He continued: "[I] go to the gym, go to the fields and do a bit of running, come home and eat food, and repeat."
Such is the life of an NRL hopeful.
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