There’s no doubting the end of the 2019 season was heartbreaking for the nib Newcastle Knights.
However, if there is a silver-lining to be seen from a disappointing campaign, it’s the incredible crop of rookies rising through the Knights ranks.
Three who saw first grade action have particularly grabbed the attention of the NRL, including Bradman Best, Phoenix Crossland and Starford To’a.
To’a himself scored an eye-catching 60 metre intercept try to open the scoring against Penrith.
To'a: Tips, positions and making the 17
While the result didn’t go the team’s way, the taste of NRL was enough to leave To’a with the confidence to solidify a first grade spot in 2020.
“It (2019) was pretty up and down,” To’a said.
“At the start of the year I played one game and got injured, but it ended pretty well with a debut, so I’m really happy with that, but the rest of it was pretty up and down.
“I guess it (the debut) gave me a lot of confidence, coming into the pre-season knowing I’ve played first grade.
“I’ve come in with the mindset of trying to compete every day, every session.”
The 19-year-old livewire had a stop-start 2019 season, with injuries hampering an otherwise impressive year where he dominated the Jersey Flegg competition alongside Bradman Best.
The young gun played mostly as a custodian, however To’a admitted he’d be happy anywhere in the NRL side.
“Anywhere in the backline, like centre or fullback,” he said.
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“I’ll probably start on the wing as a young fella, but hopefully down the track I’ll head into the centres but on the wing I’m pretty happy.”
To’a is relishing his second pre-season and has taken to the senior players in an effort to gain valuable tips and insights into life as a regular first grader.
“Edrick Lee’s a big one for me, I’m trying to learn as much as possible off him,” he said.
“He’s given me tips for every session so far so I can pick something up.
Best: Positions, Future Blues and finding the edge
“He helps me with video and then again at training, and I’m just happy learning off him because he’s very professional.”
With new recruits such as Enari Tuala coming in, and with Lee himself returning from injury, To’a knows it’s all ahead of him if he’s to force his way into the side full-time.
“I’m not too sure, there’s a bit of competition now in the outside backs because we’ve got a few new recruits,” To’a said.
“I need to just work hard every day and just work on things I need to improve on.”