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Deep into his third NRL pre-season, 21-year-old forward Luke Yates is determined to make his NRL debut in 2017.

The Club’s reserve grade player of the year in 2016 and a NSW Origin representative at Under 16s and Under 18s level, this year looms as the rookie’s best chance to run out in first grade.

“I definitely think there’s a good chance for me to play NRL this year,” he told Knights TV.

“Me, Mitch Barnett and a couple of the other boys have been going for the number 13 spot, and I think it’s really anyone’s at the moment.”

While relatively small for a forward, Yates hits hard and has been focusing on his fitness to ensure that he brings something to the table that bigger players simply won’t be able to contend with.

“I’ve been working on a lot of conditioning type of stuff,” he explained.

“Because I’m an undersized forward I’ve been having to get my fitness right up there.”

While Yates’ debut season in reserve grade in 2016 was tough, he’s fully aware of how big the step-up to first grade is.

“There’s definitely big boys in reserve grade, but I think they’re a lot bigger in grade and just the speed of it is tougher on the lungs.

“I’ve just got to keep working hard and get through the trials and then see what happens.”

New recruits Jamie Buhrer and Josh Starling have assisted the young forward in improving his game as well, with their considerable experience in the NRL showing him what it takes to get to the next level.

“Jamie is a massive influence on the team, he’s a really good leader,” Yates said.

“And I’ve been hanging out with Josh Starling quite a bit.

“As a young forward I definitely look up to him and the way he conducts himself.”