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Joining veterans Tyson Frizell and Dane Gagai on the sideline in Round 27, Phoenix Crossland admitted he felt ‘a bit too young’ to be among a host of Knights players rested for the finals.

Originally preparing for 2023 to be another year coming off the bench and plugging holes in the spine, putting his feet up in the stands and watching Newcastle's rookies take care of business came as a 'surreal feeling' for Crossland.

Consistency on the field has eluded the curly haired utility throughout his early career, coming off the bench and spending time at hooker and in the halves in both NSW Cup and first-grade last season.

But since Adam O’Brien looked to the Knights junior to fill-in after Jayden Brailey suffered a season-ending ACL injury in April, Crossland has gone from Mr Fix-It to first-choice hooker.

“It was certainly different, sitting there rested with Friz (Tyson Frizell) and Gags (Dane Gagai), all the old fellas,” Crossland told

“I was a bit surprised when I got rested just because I am quite young.

Crossland talks first finals week and Raiders challenge

“But I think it was good for me. I felt pretty good physically, I look after my body but I think mentally it was a big thing too. I’ve reset and I’m ready to go.”

Crossland was missing from most predicted line ups at the start of the season and even the 23-year-old himself didn’t anticipate he’d nail down a position in 2023.

But since his extended run at dummy-half, where he has played 14 games straight as the starting hooker, Crossland has turned Newcastle's No. 9 crisis into a silver lining and is even eyeing a future in the role.  

Crossland double in big win

“My job has always been to be that utility and sort of feel the gaps where they're needed so I guess I wouldn’t have expected to be here at the start of the year as far as getting these many minutes and games in,” Crossland said.

“I do see a future as a hooker now. I think nine suits my game and what I like to do.

“I’ve just tried to keep things simple in that position, you’ve got to pass the ball, kick well and defend well when you can.

“Because I have played as a half I sort of know as a nine where the ball needs to go and where the boys need it which I think is helping the team as a whole.”

Riding a nine-game winning streak to earn a home final and a crack at their first premiership in 22 years, the dummy-half has played a big role in the Knights incredible run to an elimination final.

However, Crossland said the slate has already been wiped clean and the only focus is on Sunday afternoon and what his side needs to do to hand home fans their first finals victory since 2013.

Fitzgibbon talks finishing on a high and finals experience

“It all means nothing if we don't get the job done on the weekend, so you can win as many games as you want in the year. But if you lose this one, it's all done,” Crossland said.

“So our mindset is definitely win this week and give it everything we’ve got. As I can imagine it is for the Raiders as well.

“It'll be a great game of footy and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it.”