The day Barnett was ready to throw his NRL career away

Mitch Barnett could be back in his hometown of Wingham right now dreaming of what could have been.

As a teen, he was ready to give the game away and move home. 

Despite playing for Newcastle in the SG Ball, Barnett was unable to get a start in the Knights' 20s squad but Canberra rated him highly. 

Problem was, Barnett was homesick.

So much so, he considered turning his back on his NRL dream to be back with his mum.

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“I just missed home. I don’t know what sort of bought it over me,” Barnett told the Our Town Our Team podcast.

“All the boys were good to me down in Canberra. I was just homesick.

“So, I nearly sort of canned it too, first full pre-season in the NRL. I went home. I don’t know if it was just before Christmas, and I think a couple of the staff down there actually ripped me off sort of thing, to say that I won’t be back.

“I went home, and I just trained as hard as I could sort of thing. I knew that footy was something that I wanted to do, I just couldn’t get rid of this homesickness. Yeah, so it was a real sort of tough time.”

Returning home over the Christmas break, Barnett reflected on his place in the game after spending time with a friend who had squandered his opportunity prematurely.

It was speaking to his friend when the penny dropped.

He didn’t want to live with regret or let down his mother.

His mum devised a plan to help the backrower get through his homesickness.

She changed his mindset and had Barnett think in “six to eight-week blocks”.

While he still missed home, his form wasn’t impacted.

He continued to shine and had a breakout year in 2015.

So impressive, Raiders coach Ricky Stuart rewarded Barnett with his NRL debut in Round 22 that season.

“The actual time when I debuted was like a reward for going through it,” he recalled.

“The whole time I was sort of down there I was off and on with it.

“As everyone sort of does when you’re in the dumps, you have your highs and lows. I was having a lot more lows than highs.

“The boys down there were really comforting for me. I formed some really strong friendships, some that I’ll keep for life.”

While Barnett showed glimpses that he belonged in the NRL arena, his pathway at the Raiders was blocked.

That’s when the Knights came knocking.

A phone call from Nathan Brown was enough to convince Barnett to make the move and he made the move in mid-2016.

Not only did the move closer to home help remedy the homesickness but it did wonders for his football with Barnett claiming the 2017 Danny Buderus Medal.

“I just got over it in the end,” he said of his homesickness.

“But definitely the move back to Newcastle helped me get over that and helped me sort of grow up.

“You know home’s home. It doesn’t change. Just people get older.”