NRL | Knights prop Herman Ese'ese says the challenge of creating his own path and leaving a legacy is behind his Newcastle move

The easy option would have been to stay put.

Cruise along surrounded by a host of quality forwards headed by Origin and Test stars under the most successful coach in NRL history at a club who generally always challenges for the title.

Instead, Herman Ese’ese decided to quit the Brisbane Broncos and move to three-time wooden spooners Newcastle.

Go figure.

Ese’ese will tell you has decision to link with the Knights wasn’t motivated by money.

He had other options and coach Wayne Bennett fought tooth and nail to talk him into staying at Red Hill.

He says he chose Newcastle because he felt he needed to get out of his comfort zone. He wanted to challenge himself and felt the Knights were the biggest challenge going.

“I wanted to move away from Brissy mainly to take on a new challenge,”he told the Newcastle Herald this week.

“There are a lot of quality players at the Broncos but if anything, I was a bit too confident, a bit too comfortable there.

“Players like Sam Thaiday, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett and Adam Blair, they were all really good for me and I took away a lot from them.

“But I didn’t want to just cruise along in a really strong pack. That’s why I decided I wanted to leave. I thought I needed the challenge.

“I didn’t want to just follow in their footsteps. I wanted to go somewhere else and create my own path.

“Create a bit of a legacy of my own and I knew Newcastle had a lot of potential in their young forward pack. I just thought it was a place where I could come and help create something really special.”

For a 23-year-old to be even thinking that way says a lot about his qualities as a person and why the Knights were so keen on him for not just his footballing ability.

Coach Nathan Brown knew before Ese’ese set foot in the city what the Knights were getting.

When stories emerged out of the Samoan World Cup camp late last year that several of their players were guilty of spending more time at the breakfast buffet than on the training paddock, questions were asked about Ese’ese.

Brown was re-assured.

While the likes of Canberra Raiders trio Junior Paulo, Josh Papalii and Joey Leilua were piling on the kilos, Ese’ese could have easily been led astray by his more seasoned teammates.

Instead, he was praised by Samoan coach Matt Parish for his commitment and professionalism.

So, has the move been everything he hoped it would be?  

“With my footy and off the field, everything is going really well,” he said. “I’m in a real happy place right now.

“My partner Haley and I and my mum and dad have all settled here in Newcastle. We’re just all really happy we are living in such a nice place like Newcastle.

“My mum and dad were in Brisbane but decided to move down here after Christmas to be closer to me I guess and it’s awesome to have them here.

“Mum does all the cooking and Haley does all the washing.”

As for the footy, Ese’ese says he is still finding his feet and searching for his best form. But he suspects he is doing something right after debuting for New Zealand in the Denver Test against England a few weeks back.

It completed a childhood dream and saw him follow in the footsteps of a famous uncle.

“Growing up as a kid in New Zealand, like every kid, they always want to play for the All Blacks or the Kiwis and I wanted to play for the Kiwis,” he said.

“I always watched my uncle Ali Lauiti’iti growing up and I guess I just wanted to follow in his footsteps. I’m grateful and happy that I got to pull on that black jersey a couple of weeks ago.

“I took a lot away from the week and definitely, it’s a huge confidence-builder.

“Now the aim is to get the call up again for the tour at the end of the year.”

Lauiti’iti played a remarkable 409 top level games over 17 seasons for the Warriors in the NRL and for Leeds and Wakefield Trinity in England.

Between 2000 and 2006, he played in 19 Tests for the Kiwis and on four occasions for Samoa.

“He moved to the UK when I was young so I didn’t really get the chance to talk to him too much or see his games live,”Ese’ese said.

“But I caught up with him when he came and watched me at the World Cup. He came down to Hamilton to watch me play against Tonga which was awesome.”