EVER since he started playing junior footy, Christian Hazard was told he would never go places because he wasn’t big enough.
“It was harder for me to make all the rep teams because of my size,” the 1.72m, 80kg Knights hooker/halfback recruit said. “It was always that I was too small. But all that did was make me more determined.”
It’s a testament to that determination that Hazard, after stints at South Sydney and Gold Coast, has been given another opportunity to crack the NRL at the Knights.
His injury-plagued seasons at the Titans in 2014 and 2015 cost him any chance of a new contract at the club and could have seen him drop off the radar altogether.
But he fought his way back via Queensland Cup side Redcliffe over the past two seasons. Queensland Residents selection in 2017 opened the door in Newcastle, where he has signed a one-year deal.
“I just decided what I lacked in size, I had to make up for in strength and speed, so working hard in the gym has been an important factor for me,” the 23-year-old said.
Knights coach Nathan Brown said Hazard could not have been more impressive during the pre-season.
“We had some good reports on Christian from the Q Cup and had a good look at him on tape,” Brown said.
“He’s a really good trainer and been great during the pre-season.
“He’s the type of player who goes well at halfback and hooker, so there is some bench versatility with him. He’s got good speed and can come on and really quicken the game up. He has fitted in really well and is just a good kid to have at our club.”
Despite his disappointment at the Titans, Hazard never completely gave up on a possible return to the NRL.
“I thought if I was given another opportunity, I could get my foot in the door,” he said. “After virtually not playing for a year, it’s hard to get noticed again, but I knew I had to buckle down and string a couple of good seasons together at “Reddy”.
“First year there, it was coming off the bench as an impact player a bit, but the second year I put my hand up to play halfback and ended up getting picked in the Queensland Residents side.”
Toowoomba-born, Hazard moved to Taree with his family when he was 10 and grew up playing with and against another current Knight, Mitch Barnett.
“I played with and against Barney and sort of grew up with him so he was someone I knew really well coming here,” he said.
“I’m loving it. There is a great feeling at the club and pre-season has been tough but really good.”
As for realistic goals this season, Hazard says he wants to stay injury free and be ready for any opportunity that may present itself.
“I’m a hooker/half and while you don’t wish for anyone to get hurt, if there is an injury or two, I want to make sure I am absolutely ready to put my hand up,” he said.
“There is really good competition in both positions.
“Pearcey [Mitchell Pearce] has come along so that has added to the competition in the halves, but that’s a good thing. Us younger boys can only learn from someone like him, so that’s pretty exciting.”