Pauper Knights couldn’t hold star in making

HE is the rising star whose NRL career will stand as a painful reminder of how things used to be for the Newcastle Knights.

For many fans, the name Boyd Cordner will mean little.

Some may remember his grubber kick in round one that set up the match-winning try for Roosters fullback Anthony Minichiello against South Sydney.

Some may be aware he captained NSW to victory in last month’s inaugural under-20 State of Origin showdown, or that he made his NRL debut last year five days before his 19th birthday, and has since racked up another dozen top-grade games.

What is perhaps not as widely known is that he was once a Knights junior.

The towering back-rower from Taree played in Newcastle’s Harold Matthews (under-15) team in 2008.

His brother Dane, who plays first grade for Lakes United, was in Newcastle’s under 17s.

Even at that formative stage of his career, Boyd was considered something special.

Roosters recruitment manager Peter O’Sullivan said in a newspaper interview recently Cordner was ‘‘the best player in the country for his age’’.

‘‘At 14, he was the best player in the under 15s,’’ O’Sullivan said. ‘‘At 15, he was the best player in the under 16s.’’

O’Sullivan told the money men at Bondi Junction that Cordner could become ‘‘the cornerstone of our forward pack for the next decade’’.

Given that O’Sullivan was responsible for bringing teenagers such as Greg Inglis, Israel Folau and Billy Slater to his former club, Melbourne, the Roosters were happy to back his judgment.

So just as they did with Anthony Tupou several years earlier, the cashed-up Chooks made an offer that the impoverished Knights simply could not match.

They signed Cordner for three years with an option for a fourth season.

One insider said the offer was too good to refuse.

‘‘I would have driven him down there myself to sign it,’’ he said.

In those days, that was almost par for the course for Newcastle.

The Hunter has traditionally been a fertile breeding ground for rugby league prospects, the ideal place for a club such as the Roosters, who have a comparatively small junior league, to do their poaching.

Given that the Knights were running on the smell of an oily rag, they faced an annual battle to retain their first-graders, let alone teenagers who may or may not graduate to senior company.

In the case of Cordner, the Roosters must have feared their speculative investment would never pay dividends.

Cordner underwent a left-knee reconstruction, had multiple operations on his right knee and suffered a broken jaw before he had even played in the NRL.

But eventually the Roosters’ faith was rewarded, and in years to come they expect Cordner to mature from one of the NRL’s most promising rookies into a superstar.

Knights fans can only look on in envy, and hope that with Nathan Tinkler’s billions to bankroll their club, stories like Boyd Cordner’s are consigned to the pages of history.

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