IT was a game Knights supporters would prefer to forget but one that Brock Lamb will remember for the rest of his life.
At the age of 19, the West Maitland Red Dogs junior made his NRL debut for Newcastle against Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
And while the result – a 38-0 thumping that dropped Newcastle to the bottom of the NRL points table – was a disappointment, Lamb was entitled to hold his head high after a contribution that suggested he has a long first-grade career ahead of him.
Targeted in defence by Roosters Test star Boyd Cordner, the former Australian Schoolboys five-eighth made 24 tackles, several of which were one on one, was Newcastle’s dominant kicker in general play and had no qualms about backing himself with the ball in hand.
“I thought he played really controlled and did really well, considering,’’ Knights coach Nathan Brown said.
“When you look at the circumstances he played in, I thought he was very controlled, he kicked the ball really well. Obviously there are going to be some parts he will look at and think he could do a little better, but as a whole, he had Boydy Cordner coming at him, and he handled him reasonably well.
“I think a few of the big blokes found their way down there … [but] he looked like he was comfortable out there. He’ll only continue to improve.’’
Promoted after regular five-eighth Jarrod Mullen suffered a torn hamstring that will sideline him for at least eight weeks, Lamb became the ninth rookie Brown has blooded in the NRL this season, and the fourth teenager after the Saifiti twins, Jacob and Daniel, and outside back Cory Denniss.
Lamb was given a taste of top-flight action during the Auckland Nines and said he had been “trying to prepare myself’’ for the chance he might be elevated from under-20s.
He was disappointed with the scoreline but “stoked” to have lived out his childhood dream of playing in the NRL.
“It’s still a bit hard to believe I played tonight,’’ he said.
“I’m just taking it each week as it comes. I just hope I keep my spot in the side and keep improving as I go.’’
Lamb said he started playing junior rugby league when he was “10 or 11, and I wasn’t the best player but I just had a passion for it, so I kept pushing and working hard’’.
At 15, he was ushered into the Knights’ junior system, striking up a long-term partnership with another outstanding prospect, Toukley Hawks halfback Jack Cogger.
Lamb was presented with his jersey before the match by Knights chief executive Matt Gidley, which he described as “a massive honour for me”, and had a host of friends and family in the crowd, cheering him on.
“It’s good to have my family here, that means a lot to me,’’ he said.
“I would have liked to win for them, but in saying that, hopefully I made them proud of me and I can continue to do that moving forward in my career.’’
Lamb said he “expected the worst” in terms of coping with the speed and intensity of first grade but was pleasantly surprised with how he had coped physically.
Other notable products to emerge from West Maitland juniors include Test star Greg Bird, who was one of Lamb’s childhood heroes, and front-rower Sam Anderson, who played in seven first-grade games for Penrith between 2013 and last season.