As the Club gets ready for Junior League Appreciation Round, Knights TV spoke to Club legend Mark Hughes about his time as a junior and his pathway to becoming a professional player.
As a former Kurri Kurri Bulldog, Hughes recalled his time there fondly, forming memories and friendships to last a lifetime.
Hughes had a love for playing league that developed as a youngster, joining Kurri Kurri in Under 8s.
Hughes had an undeniable passion for his junior team, staying in the local league until he was 19, whereupon he joined the Knights.
“I was so lucky to be a Kurri Kurri Bulldog,” Hughes explained.
“I started in Under 8s and went right through the grades… until the Under 18s. I had a different journey to a lot of players, I wasn’t in the Knights junior system until I was 19.”
“I was a Kurri Kurri Bulldog… doing my best for the red, white and blue. When I was 18 I was lucky enough to play in a grand final against West Newcastle which we won, and that led to the opportunity to trial for the Knights in 1996.”
Hughes explained that the beauty of junior league is the all-inclusive system in which the league operates; everybody plays a vital part to its operation.
“I am forever grateful for all the coaches, canteen ladies, water boys and everyone that helped me get to where I got."
As a youngster Hughes looked to his local club for his idols, following the team around as a ball boy for the early years of his playing career.
For him, he was delighted to see so much of the local talent that he admired playing for the Knights in the club's early years.
“There is a lot of passion in local league football, and that is what we love about it. Whether you are from Kurri, Lakes, Singleton or wherever you are passionate about your hometown.
“More often than not you have family that have played in the same team and you just want to be a part of it… and it’s a great thing.”
Looking forward to Junior League Appreciation Round, Hughes is excited to shine light on the importance of junior league and recognising that all levels of rugby league are important, not just NRL.
“It’s going to be great to walk out there with a young player in a Kurri jersey… knowing I was once in the same as they were.
"If you dream big, work hard and have a bit of luck, you just never know what is going to happen in life.”