You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content

Jamel Hunt thought he knew what it took to become a first grade footballer.


Growing up in Auckland in New Zealand, Hunt was obsessed with everything rugby league.


From spending countless hours honing his skills in the backyard to religiously watching every NRL match on the telly, the Otahuhu Leopards junior felt like he was a walking and talking guide to all things top flight footy.


This confidence in his league knowledge soon changed when Hunt spent five days with the Newcastle Knights this week.


As part of the Club's external High Performance Unit camp, a dozen emerging footballers from across Australia and New Zealand were invited to train with the NRL squad to gain an understanding of what it takes to succeed at the highest level.


And according to Hunt, it was an extremely insightful and humbling experience.


"It was so much harder than what I expected," Hunt admits.


"It’s very serious and full on and nothing like back home, which is pretty laidback.


"So it was a real eye opener.


"They just train, train, train and I guess that’s just all part of the life.


"I would love to be an NRL player down the track and this has just inspired me even more."


Hunt says he throughly enjoyed all aspects of his week with the Knights, but admits it was hard to topple training alongside the likes of Jarrod Mullen, Aku Uate and Darius Boyd on Thursday.


The 17-year-old, who is still at school, was so inspired by the session that he is now focused on working even harder to fulfil his first grade goals.


"Oh man, it was like a dream," the prop-forward enthuses.


"I really enjoyed it.


"I was training with Willie Mason. I’ve seen him on TV and that, but he was actually training beside me.


"I was a bit star struck."


High Performance Unit (HPU) Coach Troy Pezet was on hand for the kids' training session with the Knights and can't speak highly enough of their application and attitude.


"It was really good to show them a training session, especially a core skills session," Pezet says.


"So not only did they get to view the conditioning, speed and agility components, but also got to join in the skill bit.


"It gives them a realistic assessment of what it’s going to take to be an NRL player.


"They also got to work with all our coaches in Mick Crawley, Rick Stone, Kevie Walters and Danny Buderus, so it’s just invaluable for them."


On top of completing a training session with their NRL stars, the group were also fortunate to have Knights coach Wayne Bennett open up and give his thoughts on what it takes to succeed.


Pezet says Bennett's speech was well received, with the young footballers intently listening to the veteran mentor's every word.


"Wayne spoke to them about what’s expected of an NRL player," he says.


"He was very clear on the fact that you don’t just turn up here to make it at this level.


"It’s a constant evolution for the players as they grow and mature.


"Wayne also just outlined the commitment required and the kids got a lot out of that."


The players in the camp will finish their week by participating in junior representative trial matches this Saturday, while they'll also receive a full assessment of their performance at the Club.


It's why Pezet has no doubts the HPU program is the perfect education for any emerging league talent.


"You could send them out weights programs, shirts and stuff like that, but to have them in for a whole week is when they’ll get a true understanding," he concludes.


"They have to live it."


As Hunt discovered this week, it's only then that you gain a true appreciation of what it takes to become an NRL footballer.