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To fully understand the significance of the Newcastle Knights new High Performance Sports Hub at Hunter TAFE, you need to talk to Timana Tahu.    

As the oldest player in the Knights' squad having made his top grade debut in 1999, Tahu has found memories of the days when the Club trained on second-rate fields, received their strapping in a portable demountable and went home unshowered and smelling.      

Flash forward 15 years and things have certainly changed.  

As part of a partnership with Hunter TAFE, the Club's National Youth Cup team will be based out of the Hunter TAFE campus in Tighes Hill.

From a specialist education centre, training oval, study hub, lecture theatre and gym, the Knights under 20s now have their own dedicated home with all their needs.  

For Tahu, the flash new facilities highlight just how far the Club has come.        

"First grade didn’t have this when I first started playing as a rookie," grins Tahu, sitting in the Club's new Sports Hub facility. 

"It was getting strapped in a portable demountable and you’d never shower and just go straight home.

"There were hardly any facilities, but back then it wasn’t really something that we whinged about.   

"But looking towards the future and seeing this, it’s a great concept for the young kids and especially for the 20s.

"To actually train, do their weights get their massage and get their education in one area, it’s a positive thing."

Newcastle's unique partnership with Hunter TAFE is the first of its kind in the NRL and Tahu hopes other  clubs now follow the Knights' lead.  

The veteran winger, who is currently studying a Certificate IV in fitness at Newcastle TAFE, believes it's vital for our young players to be partaking in education programs.   

"Over in the colleges in the USA it works over there," he says.

"I think the hardest thing when you are a player is once you finish footy training and doing promos, it’s really hard to come somewhere like this and do a couple of hours of work and then get back to training again.

"But here at the TAFE, everything is here for them.

"So there are no excuses for the young fellas, because everything is pretty much at hand for them.

"So it’s not only great for the players, but it’s great for the Club and future kids that are going to come through here.

"These boys are now going to have opportunities in whatever place they go in, from sports fitness to labouring and business courses.

"So everything is out on a platform for them."

Tahu praised the Knights for their proactive stance with education, saying it's important for the Club to not only produce good footballers but also good men. 

"There is always talk that footballers don’t do much but play football," he insists.

"Well this is going to be proof to everyone that we don’t just throw boots on and go out on the field and play football every week.

"We are educating our kids and the Newcastle Knights are leading the way with a sports facility in an education department."

Star centre Sione Mata’utia was blown away by the team's new home at the Hunter TAFE campus in Tighes Hill.   

Mata'utia admitted his side was extremely lucky to have such state-of-the-art facilities, especially when you consider what the Club's training grounds were like in past years.

"Timana was saying before that he never had this when he was coming up through the grades, so it’s great that the boys now have it," Mata'utia says.

"It’s good, because the players these days normally finish their careers and have nothing to fall back on.

"It’s good that the Knights are looking after players post their footy careers.

"Looking overseas at the USA, their players have got good degrees after them.

"So what they are trying to do here is the exact same thing, which is good for the players to have something to fall back on after their footy careers."