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Knights junior players with new rep jerseys. Balance Field

Newcastle’s junior representative Rugby League players will go back to the early years as the Country Rugby League (CRL) and the Newcastle Knights join forces.

The Newcastle Rebels have recently worn the blue and white strips at the NSW Country under-16 and under-18s championships.

Now in a new look, they’ll change to heritage jerseys based on the inaugural Knights, which the Club sported between 1988 and 1996 before introducing vertical red-and-blue stripes in 1997.

The partnership has been adopted in the hope of providing Newcastle’s junior players with a clearer pathway to the NRL.

Knights CEO Matt Gidley believes it’s an important affiliation to grow and nurture young talent.

“They look fantastic, it’s great to see the young emerging players from our region coming through and wearing the Knights jersey,” he said.

“It clearly demonstrates this is part of our pathway system.

“Our coaches and trainers will continue to work with these young players and continue to develop them and ultimately we hope to see more come through and represent the club at NRL level.”

Gidley said a host of players including two-time premiership winners Bill Peden and Mark Hughes were late developers who served their apprenticeships at district clubs.

“There have been numerous players who have had long, prosperous careers at the Knights who didn’t come up through the Club’s junior rep system,’’ Gidley said.

“There’s still an opportunity to come through the local comp, play in the Newcastle reps, and maybe still play first grade for the Knights.”

The new design will feature the Rebels and CRL logo, alongside the Knights’ logo and include the words ‘NRL pathway provider since 1988’.

CRL Newcastle and Central Coast regional area manager Keith Onslow maintains it’s a jersey that has a bit of significance here in Newcastle.

“It’s a jersey that the club wore in its early years. There are some great memories, some great times and some great foundations built around that footy jersey,” he said.

Newcastle Rugby League CEO Matt Harris believes it will give junior players extra emphasis to put more work into their footy.

“Newcastle Rugby League having strong ties with the Knights is important for the league in this area and the better we have that relationship, I think the better the game will be for us,” he said.

Knights five-eighth Brock Lamb admits it’s an impressive partnership.

“It’s not only the SG kids and Harold Matt kids wearing the Knights colours, it’s pretty much all the teams in the country here so it’s very impressive to see,” Lamb said.

Cody Bryant from the Newcastle Knights under 18s believes all the boys will be keen to put on the new jersey.

“It’s awesome, it’s got a lot of heritage, back in 1988 when it first came out it would have been good to play in,” Bryant said.