WHILE some of his teammates join the hordes on the beach at Merewether this weekend to watch the climax of Surfest, Knights fullback Darius Boyd will spend his days off on the Gold Coast with the woman who raised him.
On days off during his three years at St George Illawarra, Boyd often drove from Wollongong to Mascot to fly back to Coolangatta to visit his grandmother, Delphine.
Before Boyd signed his four-year deal to join the Knights and continue his career under coach and father-figure Wayne Bennett, the 24-year-old Mudgeeraba Redbacks junior thought long and hard about joining the Titans so he could be closer to his grandmother, who is 81.
He instead chose to stick with Bennett, but bought a house at Fern Bay so he was within a few minutes of Newcastle Airport and a short flight back to the Gold Coast.
That is his plan after the Knights play the Broncos, one of his two former clubs, at Hunter Stadium tomorrow night.
‘‘I like it. It’s a bit quieter, but it’s good and I really enjoy it out there,’’ Boyd said.
Though he does not go into detail about his strong bond with Delphine, she looked after him in his final years of high school at Palm Beach Currumbin.
In an interview last year, Boyd said he never met his father, and his mother became ‘‘unwell’’ and was unable to care for him from his mid-teens.
After living with friends while completing Year 11, he moved in with Delphine the following year and described her as his ‘‘only family’’.
‘‘I usually go back when I can. If we get a weekend off after a Friday game, I try to get back there as much as I can, because she’s by herself,’’ Boyd told League 2012 this week. ‘‘It’s a five-minute drive to the airport for me, then a 45-minute flight, so it’s easy enough and it’s definitely a good thing for me to be able to do that.’’
Like Bennett, Boyd has already confronted one of the two teams he won premierships with.
That was on opening night, when the Dragons pipped the Knights 15-14 in extra time two weeks ago.
The Queensland and Australian backline regular won the Clive Churchill Medal when the Dragons routed the Roosters 32-8 in the 2010 grand final.
He was a 19-year-old winger playing the last game of his rookie season when Brisbane beat Melbourne 15-8 in the 2006 decider, and he still enjoys games against the team he used to cheer for and play for.
‘‘I suppose I’ve still got a bit of a soft spot,’’ he said.
‘‘I grew up always loving them as a kid, and I’ve still got a few mates in the team and I know most of them as well.
‘‘They’re a great side to play against, so it’s always a big challenge against them, and nothing different on Friday.’’
Boyd said Knights teammates and supporters had made him feel at home since he settled into his new surroundings in the summer and began pre-season training.
‘‘The best thing about the boys here that I’ve noticed so far is everyone’s really close. It’s not like there’s a few groups here and there; it’s a pretty tight-knit group and a lot of the boys like to go out for a coffee and a feed,’’ Boyd said.
‘‘They all hang out together and that’s a good thing because you need to have good team friendships and bonds and all those things to be able to play good footy on the field.’’
Though he enjoys the cheers from the crowd, he is more concerned about becoming a better player than a fan favourite.
‘‘You’re here to do a job and play footy and do the best you can as an individual and as a teammate,’’ he said.
‘‘While the fans are a great part of it, and you need them to support you and those things, if you’re worrying about other things outside of footy, you’re not going to get them on your side in the end anyway because you’re not going to be doing what you need to be doing.’’
Boyd has shown some touches of class against the Dragons and Sharks but said he was still feeling his way and believed he and the Knights were still a long way from their best.
‘‘I think we’re slowly getting there. I’ve been a bit quiet, I think,’’ he said.
‘‘Obviously I can improve, and I’m definitely looking to do that, and getting more involved, and I suppose as we get more into the season ... playing more games, we’ll really click together.’’