MEREWETHER Carlton second-rower Mark Wade admits it was difficult to walk away from Wayne Bennett and the Newcastle Knights.
Wade sat down with the master coach 10 days ago to explain his decision to give up a shot at a professional league career to concentrate on his university studies.
The 22-year-old is in the third year of a surveying degree and had struggled juggling full-time study with a professional sporting career.
‘‘To really make it in rugby league you have to be 100 per cent committed,’’ Wade said.
‘‘I felt I could not do that at this stage with uni where it is.
‘‘I had a good chat with Wayne. He obviously didn’t want me to give up on the rugby league but that was the choice I had to make.
‘‘He was supportive. He knew uni was important to me, which I made clear last year [before I signed].
‘‘He is really professional and respected my decision.
‘‘A degree gives you a bit of security in that sense.
‘‘I am coming towards the end of my degree and have to start doing some work placement.’’
Wade was signed by the Knights as a project player on a second-tier contract in November.
He trained with the full-time squad over the summer and played two games in the NSW Cup before suffering an ankle injury.
‘‘I do not regret doing it at all,’’ he said.
‘‘You learn so much about professionalism, how far you can push yourself and what is required to make it at that level. Everything was a lot quicker and there was higher expectation.
‘‘I thought I knew the limits on my body and and then you get into pre-season training and it opens up a whole new world.’’
Not wanting Wade to be lost to the sport, Bennett encouraged him to go back and play in the Newcastle Rugby League.
‘‘He wanted me to play local league and then come back and do the pre-season,’’ Wade said.
‘‘With the local league, when they throw money at you, there is a bigger commitment you have to make.
‘‘That was what I was struggling with at uni.’’
Instead Wade returned to rugby and defending premiers Merewether Carlton.
The 2011 Anderson Medal winner marked his comeback for the Greens with a try in the 38-24 win over University on Saturday.
‘‘It was good to back with the boys,’’ he said.
‘‘Obviously it is a different team to last year but I had a bit of fun.
‘‘It was an experience going back into the sheds and belting out the [team] song. It felt like coming back home.’’
Unfortunately the giant lock also aggravated an ankle injury and is doubt for the grand final rematch against Hamilton.
‘‘I’m waiting on the results of some scans but it has pulled up fairly well and is improving every day,’’ he said yesterday.
‘‘I’ll try and run on it tomorrow night at training and hopefully be good to go on Saturday.’’
Though concentrating on university for now, Wade remains ambitious.
Former premiership teammate and training partner Dylan Evans has been playing regularly in the front row for Sydney University this season. A NSW Country berth would also seem within reach next season.
‘‘I still want to play as good a footy as a I can,’’ he said.
‘‘There are a few options down the track, but I just want to finish my uni first.’’