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'It’s definitely the highlight of my career so far'

Let’s set the scene.

On a soaking Saturday afternoon in Newcastle, the nib Newcastle Knights play the Warriors in cyclonic conditions at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Warriors flyer Reece Walsh makes a break and looks destined to score.

Across the field comes a bloodied Jayden Brailey who executes a Scott Sattler-esque tackle just short of the line and saves a certain try.

The Knights go onto win 10-6.

Desire and courage, that play just about summed up Jayden Brailey.

The best of Brails

The 25-year-old has established himself as the first-choice hooker and has continually been one of the Knights best week-in, week-out in 2021.

Supporters can now enjoy the fact that they will see ‘Brails’ in a red and blue jersey for another three seasons after he signed a deal until the end of 2025.

Brailey said he’s extremely grateful to ink a new deal with the Club.

“It means the world to me,” Brailey said.

“Since I’ve arrived to the Club, I’ve always felt extremely welcomed.

“I feel like I’ve played probably my best football here.

“It’s a massive honour for me to extend here and I’m very excited for what the next couple of years will bring.”

Like many who have come before him, the rollercoaster ride of rugby league certainly rings true for Jayden.

After three seasons with the Cronulla Sharks, Brailey moved to Newcastle in 2020 in pursuit of a new opportunity.

With the hype and excitement surrounding his signature, the crafty hooker was eagerly awaiting his chance to impress.

However, tragedy struck in Round 2 of the 2020 season, with the 25-year-old rupturing his ACL.

Brailey faced a nine-month recovery period and his season was over.

Upon reflection, Brailey said he used the extended injury lay-off to come back stronger.

“One thing I did learn was just how much love I have for the game,” Brailey said.

“It was hard especially being new to the Club. I wanted to make a big impact, so it was pretty tough sitting out for 12 months.

“It really reinvigorated that fire in the belly.

“That’s why, when I came back this year, I wanted to hit the ground running.

“I’ve only missed one game this year and I’ve managed to stay healthy.”

The old saying goes you can’t keep a champion down for long.

Brailey hasn’t looked back in 2021 putting the pain and turmoil of 2020 in the rear-vision mirror.

Missing only the one game, the dummy-half has been an influential figure in Adam O’Brien’s team.

Heading into the last game of the season, Brailey sits first on the NRL’s tackle count with 1,036 tackles and a tackle-efficiency of 96.5 per cent.

Sporting an 88-kilogram frame, the hooker punches well above his weight to mix it with much bigger bodies.

The hooker has also contributed three crucial tries and four try-assists.

His consistency is something he takes great pride in.

“With my life in general, I’m pretty routined and I guess that reflects on the field as well,” Brailey continued.

“It’s a credit to the staff and the players around me.

“I’ve really enjoyed being a player under Adam and all the coaching and high-performance staff.

“I feel like they’ve brought the best football out of me, but in saying that there is a lot of things I know I need to get better at.”

The hooker was also named in the side’s leadership group at the start of the season.

Nicknamed ‘The Sheriff’, Brailey has been co-captain alongside Daniel Saifiti and Kalyn Ponga for the entire 2021 season and it’s a role that he certainly places great significance towards.

“It’s definitely the highlight of my career so far,” Brailey said.

“It took me by surprise at the start of the year only being my second year at the Club, but I’m extremely honoured to have that role.

“I’ve just tried to be myself and have the boys backs. I’ve enjoyed the role and the responsibility it brings.”

As for the city of Newcastle, you can bet the town played a contributing factor.

“I love Newcastle,” Brailey said.

“My girlfriend has moved up here as well and she absolutely loves it too.

“It’s a great place to live, and the supporter base are very passionate and love their rugby league.

“There is nothing better than running out at McDonald Jones Stadium for a home game in front of a sold-out crowd.

“I got all my best mates up here now with the Knights boys and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Nearing his 100th NRL game, Brailey certainly has plenty of exciting years to come playing at the top level.

Along with a couple of personal goals, there is a major triumph at the forefront of his mind.

"Holding up the trophy, that’s definitely the main goal,” Brailey said.

“Personally, I’d love to represent NSW and Australia, it’s certainly something that is a big goal of mine.

“They’re obviously personal, but in terms of the team, I just want to keep playing finals football every year and putting ourselves in the best position to win the competition.”