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When it comes to producing quality juniors, Newcastle has long been renowned as one of the best clubs in the NRL competition. 

From Danny Buderus and Paul Harragon through to current stars Adam Clydsdale and Kurt Gidley, the Knights have always blooded exciting new talent from the Hunter region's vast array of juniors. 

Talk to those inside the Club and it’s a production line that continues to roll out. 

Just ask Knights’ recruitment officer Peter Mulholland, a bloke who has worked with some of the best juniors in the NRL as a coach and recruiter throughout an illustrious 19-year career. 

Mulholland says the Club's current crop is right up there with the best he has ever seen, including the star-studded Penrith sides from the early 2000s.    

“The future is exciting for the club,” Mulholland tells Behind the Armour. 

“It’s all on the back of good structures that Wayne has put in place and programs like the High Performance Unit (HPU). 

“The juniors we have at the moment are right up there with the best I’ve seen.

“The Canterbury crop that they’ve got at the moment is a great group of kids.

“Penrith was also wonderful in the early 2000s. They included Luke Lewis, Luke Rooney, Steve Turner and Frank Pritchard.

“But this Newcastle group is potentially as good as them.

“So it’s a crest of a wave and we’ve just got to make sure we continue to work hard with them because some kids will fall off and some will get better.

"It’s about how you work with them and the time and effort that you put in that’s important."

While a number of juniors have made their top grade debuts in recent seasons, Mulholland says their promotions have been more reward for form than good planning.            

"I suppose it is unconsciously a plan to blood these juniors in the NRL," he admits.

"Like when Adam Clydsdale went and trained full-time with the NRL the year before last and he was in last year.

"You try and identify your three or four best kids that you think are potentials to play NRL in that next season.

“It’s also about making sure they are prepared and ready for it.

“They’ve also got to carry that form back to the 20s and both Joe Tapine and Jake Mamo have showcased that.

“So it’s basically selection on form.”

Following on from the rise of 20s players Mamo and Tapine to the NRL this season, we decided to take a look at the next group of juniors in line to don the famous red and blue in first grade. 

With the help of Mulholland and others from around the Club, we've compiled a list of the gun rookies to watch out for in the coming years.   

Sione Mata’utia:

Mata’utia will be officially eligible to play NRL when he turns 18 on Wednesday.

Blessed with equal amounts of natural ability and tireless work ethic, Mata'utia is held in extremely high regard by everyone at the Knights.

The South Newcastle junior has represented NSW 18s and 20s this season and is a good chance to make his top grade debut before the year is out. 

NYC trainer Mick Reid can't speak highly enough of Mata'utia, especially in the professionalism stakes.  

"If you look up the word professional in the dictionary there should be a picture of Sione," Reid beams about the star centre.

Away from footy:   

Sione entered into his Certificate III in business studies with Hunter TAFE this year. He is also completing a traineeship with the club that involves junior development work with the junior development team.

Luke Yates:

Built out of the same hard working mould as Club legend Glenn Grief, Yates is one of the most consistent performers in the Knights' NYC side.  

Passionate, resilient and smart, Yates has all the qualities to go a long way in the game according to Mulholland. 

"Luke is a tough kid with a great mindset for a young prop," Mulholland enthuses. 

"He is a local boy from Wests. He was the 18th man for NSW 18s last year and he has graduated from Ball to NYC last year.

"He has been one of our best performers this year in the 20s and he is still only 19."

Away from footy:   

Luke completed a traineeship in Warehousing with Lake Macquarie City Council last year.  He was fortunate to then secure full-time employment with the council where he is gaining several qualifications including his HR truck license.

Danny Levi:

The youngest member of the Knights' NYC squad, Levi is a creative hooker with the ability to play anywhere in the forwards.

Mulholland says the Kiwi-born No.9 has the ability to one day step and play in the NRL.

"Danny is certainly one to be looking out for," he says.

"The kid is a natural hooker who is well ahead in his development compared to other juniors.

"He is from Wellington in New Zealand and came out here as an 18-year-old and played a whole season of NYC last year.

"He has played New Zealand Under 18s and 16s and he’ll most likely play Junior Kiwis this year as well.

"He was recommended to us by former Knight David Lomax, who also encouraged us to sign Joe Tapine."

Away from footy:   

Danny has just secured employment as a storeman with Hunter Pods. A progressive company and loyal supporter of the Club, Co-director Ben Livingstone was more than happy to help out with securing work for our NYC Captain.

Lachlan Fitzgibbon:

On the back of an impressive effort in the NYC last season, Fitzgibbon has taken his game to another level in 2014.  

The local South Newcastle junior started last year in the summer squad, but he remained focused and pushed his way into the 20s team midway through the season. 

Mulholland says Fitzgibbon has the ability and potential to become a top grade regular in the red and blue down the track.

"Lachlan is certainly one to keep an eye on," he says.

"He is tall, athletic, great build for a young back-rower. 

"The kid still has plenty of learning ahead of him, but he has the work ethic to get there."   

Away from footy:   

Lachlan is studying construction management at Newcastle University. He compliments this working with Keenan Construction as a labourer when his study commitments allow.

Pride Petterson-Robati: 

Born-and-raised in Wellington in New Zealand, Pride Petterson-Robati is a player of enormous potential. 

A product of the Melbourne Storm system, Petterson-Robati has found a home at the Knights with a permanent spot in the Club's NYC side.  

20s trainer Mick Reid has no doubts the Kiwi bookend can make it at the highest level. 

"Pride has a great knowledge of the game for a bloke who has only just turned 18," Reid says. 

"He is also quite skillful for a big bloke and can step at the line." 

Away from footy:   

New to the club Pride has secured work with our loyal partner at Inghams.  He has his eye on a carpentry apprenticeship in the not to distant future.

Jack Cogger:

As the son of former Wests Magpie Trevor Cogger, young Jack has rugby league running through his veins.  

Originally from Toukley on the NSW Central Coast, Cogger junior is a halfback with potential and ability by the bucket loads. 

Mulholland believes the emerging No.7 is well and truly on track for a long and successful career, hopefully at the Knights.   

"Jack has played Harold Matthews and SG Ball and been in our system for a long time now," he explains.

"He was 18th man for this year’s NSW 18s side and also seems to have plenty of time with the ball."     

Not a bad effort for a kid who is just 16 and won't be eligible for NYC until he turns 17 in August. 

Away from footy:  

Attends Mary MacKillop Catholic College in Warnervale on the Central Coast.

Brock Lamb

A proud product from Hunter heartland Maitland, Lamb is a five-eighth rated highly by those in the know at the Knights.

The 17-year-old starred in the SG Ball ranks this season and now has his sights firmly set on progressing to the NYC next season.

Mulholland is confident that Lamb is on course to achieve big things in the game. 

"Brock has played in the same sides as Jack Cogger and they’ve been a halves combination in state teams and they’ve been a combination in catholic college teams," he explains.

"He was also selected in the Australian Under 15s Schoolboys last year alongside Jack, so the kid is certainly one to look out for."

Away from footy:  

Attends St Mary's High School Maitland.

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