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When Jake Mamo was a small child watching the Newcastle Knights passionately defend their home ground, he considered it a far-fetched dream to one day be down on the field playing for his beloved team.

Now, the 21-year-old’s eyes light up when he begins to remember the excitement of travelling to Hunter Stadium (then called Energy Australia Stadium) to cheer on the red the blue.

“I remember coming up for games when I was five, six, seven years old with my grandparents and sitting on the hill or sitting in the stands and watching Joey (Johns) and Timana Tahu and guys like that running around,” Mamo said as he gazed around a now empty Hunter Stadium on Wednesday morning.

“I’ve grown up supporting the Knights as I grew up on the Central Coast.

“I’ve played rugby league since I was six or seven-years-old, so it was always great to get out and watch those guys run around.”

As a starry-eyed primary school student, Mamo watched on in awe at the spectacle of the players battling it out down on the field.

“I looked up to those guys,” he said.

“I didn’t think they were real people, I looked up to them as heros.”

Mamo’s favourite Knight was the explosive Timana Tahu who dazzled the passionate, young rugby league fan with his flair and finesse on the wing.

It’s a style and energy that’s no doubt inspired the talented tyro in his own 16 first grade appearances with the Knights.

“Timana was my favourite player. He was always a great winger or centre,” he said.

“I remember Joey (Johns) kicking to him in the corners and him jumping above everyone and scoring tries.”

Mamo’s first brush with his idol came when Tahu visited his primary school as part of a tour with the Australian Kangaroos alongside teammate Trent Barrett.

“I was in Year One and I got a photo with Timana. I still can’t find that photo, I’m going to look for it,” he said with a grin. 

It wouldn’t be the last time the aspiring first grader was to meet his childhood sporting star.

“I guess a big thing for me, two years ago now, I got the opportunity to train alongside Timana who really was my idol growing up and that was pretty special thing,” he said.

That’s why reflecting on his childhood memories makes representing the red and blue all that more significant for Mamo.

“I think it’s amazing that I get to run on this field when there’s 15,000-20,000 people watching,” he said.

“When we do a lap of the oval at the end of the game, it’s awesome getting to interact with the kids and share my experiences.”