IT doesn’t seem that long ago that Korbin Sims was the apprentice of Newcastle’s engine room, learning his trade alongside grizzled veterans Willie Mason, David Fa’alogo and Kade Snowden.
But in a sign of the generational change the club has undergone, as the Knights prepare for their 2017 campaign, 24-year-old Sims now finds himself as their senior front-rower, at least in terms of top-grade games.
Mickey Paea is the only Newcastle player to have celebrated his 30th birthday, but his career tally of NRL games – interrupted by four seasons in Super League – is five short of the 76 appearances Sims has racked up.
Then comes new recruit Josh Starling (67), followed by Sam Mataora (62) and Jack Stockwell (53), along with 2016 debutants Daniel and Jacob Saifiti and Josh King.
“That’s how it is now,’’ Sims told the Herald.
“I’m one of the more experienced guys in the team and if the young boys feel like asking me a question, I feel like I can give them advice and direction about the way they go about their business.
“It’s all about working together and trying to help each other.’’
Despite playing in 22 games last season – more than any other Newcastle forward – Sims candidly admits: “It wasn’t one of my best years’’.
Not only did he endure the frustration of a club-record losing streak, twice he was suspended for high tackles.
“Last year was a development year for us,’’ he said. “It was probably a year that the club needed to have.
“Two consecutive wooden spoons, we’re better for it now … you get your second wooden spoon in a row, you can’t really forget about it too much.
“But we’ve got a few new recruits here now, and the lads that have been brought in are here to do a job.
“We’re confident we can move on from the last two years and look forward to the future.’’
While the rest of his Newcastle teammates will have to wait until next year to snap their losing run, Sims was at least able to savour a victory song after Fiji’s 20-18 Test match win against Samoa last month, having fought back from an 18-0 deficit.
“I’m always really proud to represent Fiji and it was a good win,’’ Sims said. “It was a nice, hot slog over there.’’
A standby player for Queensland Origin in 2015, Sims had been hoping to make the breakthrough to interstate football last season.
“I didn’t really feature at all last year, but that’s just made me a bit more hungry for it,’’ he said. “I’ve got my hands full, but I’m not going to write myself off.’’
Off contract at the end of next season, Sims is happy to bide his time and prove to Knights coach Nathan Brown that he warrants retention.
“You want to secure your future, but Browny has a plan in place and there’s no time line on re-signing,’’ he said.
“I just want to have a good pre-season, play well in the trials, and hopefully after the first six weeks of the season, I’ll be in a position to reassess things then.’’