‘It’s finally here’
Those are the words from nib Newcastle Knights hooker and Round 1 co-captain Jayden Brailey ahead of Friday night’s season opener against the Bulldogs.
The match will be a special occasion for the 24-year-old who will play in his first game as an NRL skipper and make a long-awaited return from a lengthy injury.
It has been almost a year since Brailey went down with a torn ACL against the Wests Tigers, having arrived in Newcastle from Cronulla that very pre-season.
The livewire No.9 is looking forward to his first game back in front of fans and couldn’t contain his excitement ahead of his monumental return game.
“It’s obviously been a long time, especially for me after being out for the majority of last year,” Brailey said.
“I feel really good and full of confidence with my knee. I got through the (Melbourne) trial great, I’m fully fit and got a full pre-season under my belt.
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“I’ve worked on a number of things during pre-season and I’m looking forward to getting back to what I do best and playing some good football.
Last season’s Round 1 fixture was Brailey’s only time playing in front of the Knights faithful.
The hooker earned a debut victory in the team’s 20-0 victory against the Warriors in wet conditions.
“It was a miserable old day but the fans still turned out,” Brailey said.
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“Being able to have all the Knights fans back, it’s massive for us players, we really missed them last year.
“One thing is for sure is that fans will always be there and it’s exciting to have them back.
Brailey has also been rewarded with the co-captaincy for round one and will form part of the 2021 leadership group.
The hooker will run out in his 72nd game in the top grade, but has only played the two matches in the red and blue.
Brailey has proven his leadership capabilities in only a short amount of time and will play a pivotal role in this season’s campaign.
The 24-year-old will lead out the side alongside Daniel Saifiti and says Friday night’s game will be a milestone moment in his career.
“It’s a massive honour for me and something very special,” Brailey said.
“We both bring different things, Daniel bring a lot of energy and my role, being in the spine, is steering the side around the park.
“It’s my fifth year now and I’m experienced enough to help the young guys and lead the boys out.
“I think I’ve used all of my tickets, all of my family is coming up and some friends. It’s going to be a special day and fingers crossed we can get the result.”