Having grown up in farm country of Wingham, near Taree and two hours north-west of Newcastle, Mitch Barnett took the long road to chase his dream.
Rugby league is a way of life in small country towns like Wingham, and a lot of sacrifice and time goes into the game, especially at junior levels with the amount of travel involved.
Some of the game's greatest players have come from country areas.
“When you’re from where we are from, the Manning Valley region, you’re always told as a kid there is a slim chance of you making it in the NRL,” Barnett said on the KNIGHTS // HQ Podcast.
“Or if you do, it’s a long road there, whatever it is. When you look back on the people that have made it from that area, some of them have done really well like Boyd Cordner, Danny Buderus, Latrell Mitchell.
“I’m sure they can tell you all the same, so for us we get to live out our dream and it does encourage kids to chase theirs.
“That whole area, is a hard-working area and everyone works during the week to play rugby league on the weekend.
“As a kid you went to school and played rugby league every afternoon, and any chance you got. It’s a big rugby league place."
Barnett started his junior years within the Knights pathways before moving down to Canberra for a stint with the Raiders.
The forward was named NSW Cup Player of the Year in 2015 and made his NRL debut for the green machine in the same year.
In 2016, Mitch made the move back to Newcastle to link up with the Knights.
Dubbed 'The Enforcer', 'Barney' has played seven seasons in the red and blue jumper and accumulated 120 games (to date), two Danny Buderus Medals, 20 tries plus countless tackles and highlights.
This season will be Barnett's last in Knights colours as heads to play for the Warriors in 2023.
Podcast host and teammate, Mat Croker, who comes from the same area as Mitch, spoke about looking up to 'Barney' coming through the grades.
“I remember looking up to ‘Barney’,” Croker said on the podcast.
“When he was down in Canberra, I remember watching ‘Barney’ play Toyota Cup (the old Under 20’s competition).
“And I was thinking, because ‘Barney’ is a couple of years older than me, I can clearly remember sitting on the lounge going ‘I’ll eat a muesli bar because that will get me fit and healthy and one day I will be playing Under 20’s.'
“And now I’m lucky enough to share the field on the NRL stage."
Also on this episode of the podcast, we take 'Barney' through his player quiz to see how well he knows his own career, talk rep round with Origin coming up, review the Raiders performance and play a new segment: Overated/Underated.
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