Mitch Barnett always wanted to play NRL, and he always wanted to play for the nib Newcastle Knights.
In 2012, it seemed that may never happen.
Growing up just a few hours up the road in Wingham, Barnett came through the grades with the Knights before joining Canberra.
The forward was known for his tough, workhorse-like attitude, and impressed for the Raiders NYC team. However, he struggled to crack the first grade side and, after a failed attempt to move to the Gold Coast, was plying his trade for feeder-side Mounties.
New deal, new goals and message to the fans
Then, in 2016, he received the call that would turn his career around. It was the Knights on the other end of the phone, with an offer for an immediate transfer back to where it all began.
Four years later, Barnett is a two-time Danny Buderus Medal winner and set to become a Knight for life after signing a three-year contract extension.
“The wife and I sat down a few months ago now, a decision was made, and we are fortunate enough to be in this situation,” Barnett said.
“All my mates are here, my wife and I are settled here and that’s it.
“It was an easy decision.”
Being one of Adam O’Brien’s first major retention's, the 25-year-old is intent on repaying the boss’ faith in him as soon as he crosses the line next season.
“With the new coach coming in, it’s exciting times ahead,” he said.
“A lot of hard work to be done, but I think we can really have a successful year and that’s exciting.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations with him now and he’s always been up front and honest with me, on the first day he was here he told me that he wanted me.”
While he and the team are firmly focussed on a return to September football, Barnett has set some goals of his own.
“I’ve got a few personal ones in terms of rep footy and stuff like that,” Barnett said.
“But at the end of the day, I’ve got to play well and we’ve got to start winning as a team and the rest of that will follow.
“If I can just get there round one and put some good form out, that’ll be my first goal ticked off right there.”