The Newcastle Knights have established a strong foundation for the 2015 season by achieving a hard fought win over the New Zealand Warriors.
It was the ideal result for new-recruit Jack Stockwell, who made his club debut on Saturday evening after joining the Knights after a stint with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
“It was unreal, and even better to get a win,” Stockwell told Knights TV in the sheds following win.
“I’m proud of all the boys and it shows how hard we worked in pre-season.
“I’m happy because the crowd was fantastic and it was good to see everyone come out."
In the lead up to the game, much of the talk centered around the Warriors' size and skill, but it was the Knights resolve that secured Newcastle's victory.
“The Warriors are always a big challenge, especially when they are fresh. They are big boys and that’s what they brought today,” he said.
“They are big tough and strong and came straight through the middle.
“I thought we matched that pretty well and got the result today.
“We’ve done a lot of hard and it paid off for us.”
“It shows how hard we’ve actually worked in the pre-season and how we’ve come together, how we’ve bonded and how we respect each other I guess.”
The Knights’ victory capped off a positive week for Tyler Randell we saw him sign a two-year contract extension with the Club.
Playing hooker off the bench, the talented Aberdeen Tigers junior scored in the 66th minute and proved his kicking prowess converting Dane Gagai’s opening try when Tyrone Roberts left the field due to injury.
“We were against the wind in the first half which I think slowed us down a little bit, but I think we finished really strong,” Randell said.
“We were confident we could get the job done and we came away with the win which is good."
Randell particularly relished the experience of playing the first match of the season in front of the Club’s loyal supporters.
“The crowd was very vocal, and at times on the field, we could hardly hear each other talk,” he said.
He believes the win is the ultimate way to kick-start season 2015 and creates valuable momentum moving towards Round two.
“The Warriors set the bench mark for size and strength, to stick it to them in Round one, that sort of sets the standard for us for the rest of the year.
“Hopefully we can keep backing it up with a performance like that."
18-year-old Sione Mata’utia was a late inclusion in the squad after captain Kurt Gidley was ruled out due to hamstring tightness.
He explained his focus was to remain level-headed and calm after learning of his last minute selection.
“It’s always tough to prepare for a late call up, but you just have to try and do your job,” Mata’utia said.
“I guess you don’t want to overthink it, you’re going to play and that’s about it.
“I have a pre-game ritual where I have a sing and a bit of a dance and have a good pray.
“You can’t get overwhelmed by it, you just do your job like any another game of footy I guess.”
Mata’utia also spoke about the challenge of facing such a intimidating opponent in the opening round, but said the support of the crowd was ample encouragement to snatch a win.
“They are always a tough challenge, but it sort of makes it easier playing them at home,” he added.
“They have big size in physique and they are always athletic players.
“It was a big challenge first up, but it was good to get the win.
“Round one is always tough so it’s always good to start with a win.
“It’s only the start and still have more games to go.
“I guess we just have to keep looking forward and keeping the roll on.”