'Sons of guns' Hoy and Woolford keen to make their own mark

Tex Hoy knew early on in life that he was not going to follow his father on to the pro surfing circuit.

Zac Woolford was equally sure he was destined to play rugby league, just like his dad.

Meet a couple of sons of guns.

Nineteen-year-old Hoy and 22-year-old Woolford, who both grew up with famous fathers, are determined to carve out their own careers with the Newcastle Knights.

Hoy's old man Matt won three events, including Bells Beach, in finishing fifth on the world surfing tour in 1997. That same year, Matt’s great mates Andrew and Matthew Johns led the Knights to a famous victory over Manly in the Australian Rugby League grand final.

Woolford's father Simon racked up 234 first-grade games for the Raiders between 1994 and 2006, and another 28 in two seasons with the Dragons before retiring at the end of 2008. He coached Newcastle’s ISP team for two years before taking the reins at Super League club Huddersfield Giants.

A fullback or playmaker, Tex Hoy is still eligible to play Jersey Flegg this year, but after two appearances for Newcastle’s ISP team last season, he wants to stay there.

"Growing up, all my mates played league. I had a surf once out at Byron and didn't really think it was for me so I stuck to my footy and it's gone well for me so far,” Hoy explained.

"No regrets at all - I still can't even go out and enjoy myself surfing - so footy's for me.

Knights duo Zac Woolford (left) and Tex Hoy.
Knights duo Zac Woolford (left) and Tex Hoy. ©NRL Photos

"Dad's good mates with Joey Johns and Matty Johns, so I've learned a lot from them, and I know Matty's sons Cooper and Jack. We always played backyard footy, so that's where I've picked up my skills and knowledge, I guess."

Hoy said he appreciated his father's advice administered on long car trips to and from games, and his tips on being ready to perform at the optimum level.

"He used to say he'd give me a dollar for every try I score but I never got paid for that. I’m still waiting for that,” he said.

"Surfing is a bit different to footy but he knows how to prepare and knows what he has to do well to surf well, and he’s passed those sort of things on to me."

Making the most of his first full-time NRL pre-season with the Knights, Hoy has been learning the finer points of play-making from Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson.

He admires Ponga's step, Watson's speed and attitude, and Pearce's experience as a game manager.

"I've really taken in everything I could learn from them to build my own game," he said.

"I played two Cup games last year and they were pretty tough – a bit different to 20s – so if I go back to 20s, I'd be pushing for a Cup spot but hopefully I can start in Cup and hold my spot there."

Knights recruit Zac Woolford.
Knights recruit Zac Woolford. ©newcastleknights.com.au

Just like his father, Woolford is a cheeky, chatty, competitive hooker.

"I've said it a few times now, but he's been massive," Woolford said.

"He's probably one of the biggest reasons why I am where I am today. He's always helped me critique my game and things I need to work on. He just tells it to me straight and I'm more than happy to take that advice on board from him after what he's done."

Though he heads into pre-season trials behind New Zealand international Danny Levi, Woolford is at a stage of his career where he wants to progress from the second-tier ISP to the next-level NRL.

After an apprenticeship in Canberra’s under-20s, and an ISP premiership with the Bulldogs last year, the Queanbeyan Blues junior jumped at the chance to join the Knights and continue studying under coaches Nathan Brown and Rory Kostjasyn.

"For me now, it's trying to get that crack at first grade whenever I can," said Woolford, who was signed last November as a back-up to cover for Slade Griffin.

"At the moment I'm working really hard with Rory and Browny on the little areas of my game that are going to get me there, and hopefully sometime this year, that opportunity comes up and I think I’ll be ready.

"The competition has been unreal, and it's made training really interesting. We're all working really, really hard and having little competitions after training.

"Danny has played for his country and has a lot of experience, so I'm trying to pick up what I can from him, and Rory has been massive with the video so I’m like a sponge every day.

"I feel easily like this is the best I've ever felt in my short career to date, so I feel like if I'm not ready now, I never will be."