Lachlan Fitzgibbon has described his chance to play in the NRL as the best 17 minutes of his life.
After following the Newcastle Knights since he was a 10-year-old and cheering on the team almost every weekend since then, it’s easy to understand why.
“I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to do it again,” he said on Monday morning.
After moving to Newcastle from Sydney in primary school he became a Souths Newcastle junior and entered the Knights’ junior development system when he was sixteen as a member of the SG Ball side.
“I started going for the Knights from day dot when I moved up here. I was there every weekend growing up from under 10s and I still go and watch the boys play,” he said.
Yet it only occurred to him after the game that he’d just lived out his own and countless young league players’ boyhood dreams.
“Every kid who plays rugby league at a young age wishes to play NRL and I’ve made that goal, so I’m stoked,” he said.
“I’ve just lived every six year old’s dream, to play in the NRL.
“I didn’t really take it in, but looking back on it, it is.”
Following two successful years in the under 20s competition where he earned the 2014 NYC Coaches Award and was named in the NRL’s NYC Academic Team of the year, his playing career took an incline at the start of 2015.
“(Rick) Stoney gave me the opportunity to do a pre-season six months ago and I was expecting to play maybe over the next couple of years but it’s come early and I’ve loved it,” he said.
He made the transition to NSW Cup at the start of the year and has cemented his spot in the side as a dynamic ball runner with a steely defensive attitude.
The confident, affable 21-year-old said he was rendered speechless on receiving the life-changing call from interim coach Danny Buderus.
“He called me and I had no words, I was a bit shaken up and after that I was speechless for about four hours until I went to bed,” he said.
“It was a massive shock to me."
In fact, the build up of anticipation and adrenalin meant he didn’t get much sleep in the days before the game.
But he arrived at Jubilee Oval on Sunday afternoon prepared and focused, ready for the biggest moment of his life.
“It was adrenalin and I had a thousand thoughts going through my mind and didn’t know what I was going to do when I got out there to prepare, but once I got out there I was fine and I loved it,” he said.
“It was all a bit of a blur that first stint.
“It was a lot tougher than what I have been previously playing in reserve grade. I couldn’t believe the step up, the physicality is second to none."
Towering at the 192cms and tipping the scales at 104 kilograms, the intensity of first grade football was still a shock to the system for the burly forward.
“I had heard the step up was big between reggies and first grade but I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was," he admitted.
“Reserve grade is a good comp but the NRL is second to none.
“I’m not at my overall weight, where I need to be and a few more kilos. I have a bit of filling out to do over the next couple of years.”
With the time to absorb the incredible achievement he’s already begun to set himself even bigger dreams.
“I would love to play as many games as I can heading into the back end on this year,” he said.
“I’m happy to play my part where Bedsy (Buderus) needs me and am happy playing anywhere for the Knights."
A Newcastle boy through-and-through, he sees an exciting and promising future for himself at the Club.
“There are exciting times ahead for the Club and it’s only up from here,” he said.
“There are a few young guys coming through, it’s a positive thing for the Club and Newcastle.
"Hopefully over the next few years we can do some good things.”