This Sunday at Mt Smart Stadium, nib Newcastle Knights forward Luke Yates is set to make his NRL debut against the New Zealand Warriors.
A Wests Newcastle junior, Yates joined the Knights as a 15-year-old and has progressed through the grades to earn his NRL call-up in Round 1.
“I’m not really nervous, I say I will be once we run out but I’m just really keen to play and keen to see how this year goes for us,” he told Knights TV on Monday.
“I’m very excited and playing in round one is a massive thing.
“I’m feeling confident, the team has trained well and we have been working really hard in the off season.”
The 21-year-old is no stranger to the top ranks, having previously trained for three pre-seasons with the first-grade squad.
However it wasn’t until February this year that he got his first NRL opportunity when he played at the Auckland Nines.
“I felt good in the Nines and in the Canberra trial, and I’ve been training for three years full time so I think I am ready,” he added.
Yates believes the final trial match of the pre-season against the Canberra Raiders will benefit the team for Sunday’s season opening match against the Warriors.
“The Warriors are a big strong team and we’re not doubting that,” the 2016 Reserve Grade Player of the Year said.
“But we played Canberra last weekend, and they had some Test forwards, and we handled them pretty well.”
With the 2017 season about to kick off, young Yates believes a strong pre-season will pay off for the men in red and blue.
“With the work we’ve been doing I’m feeling pretty confident it will be a different year for us,” he said.
“We’ve got a really tight squad. I suppose everyone probably says that, but we really do have a tight squad.
“We can all have a laugh and we know when to get serious... there's a really good vibe around the squad at the moment.”