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Playing out a dream debut in front the “hundred” family members who’d travelled in support, Redcliffe junior David Armstrong proved a star for Newcastle, scoring a try in their win over the Dolphins.

Hailing from the border towns of Mungindi and Goondiwindi, Armstrong stepped up in style to fill in the void left by injured fullback Kalyn Ponga, helping spark the Knights to the upset.

“Everyone is rapt for him … where he scored was right in front of (his family), so you couldn’t script it any better for the young bloke,” Knights coach Adam O’Brien said after the game.

“I don't want to get carried away, it's his first game, but he did a hell of a job for us. Proud of him.”

David Armstrong Try

For Armstrong – who was born in Moree, but declared himself to be a Queenslander after idolising Darren Lockyer and Johnathan Thurston growing up – the path to the NRL has been a convoluted one covering plenty of geography.

That’s come to be expected from someone who grew up in a remote area and had to travel for hours each way as a junior just to play a 20-minute game.

The Mungindi Grasshoppers junior was presented his debut jersey by Knights club icon Darren Albert and said the week leading into the game left him a nervous wreck.

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“The whole week I've been nervous, just lucky to have a good group of senior boys in the team, a lot of them played plenty of NRL games and they just reminded me it's a just another footy game,"  Armstrong said.

“But I still built myself up and I was nervous the whole week; I bloody woke up at one o'clock this morning and had a light sleep all the way up until we had to go to brekkie.

“It’s pretty crazy, playing at Suncorp as well; it’s a pretty special stadium to debut at ... The debut was everything I expected; fast, physical.

“There would have been over 100 friends and family there in the end … lucky the Knights hooked us up with a few tickets.

“It's just special that they all come down, we live probably six hours away, most of them travelled. It was just special to have them come down here.”

David Armstrong with his supporters.
David Armstrong with his supporters. ©Chloe Davis / NRL Images

In his short rugby league career so far, Armstrong has bounced between Mungindi, Goondiwindi, Toowoomba, Redcliffe and Newcastle, sometimes multiple times; eventually settling again in Newcastle after spending time away to play back in Queensland during the NSWRL COVID-19 shutdown.

“Just a few years ago in 2021, I was playing in the Toowoomba Rugby League comp (with Goondiwindi Boars); we ended up winning the comp there and then after that, I ended up back down in Newcastle and been there ever since,” Armstrong said.

“I started in the Jersey Flegg down in Newy and worked my way up in the Cup and now, in the NRL.”

Against the Dolphins, Armstrong came up against opposing fullback Trai Fuller on multiple occasions, and while both may have been little known before their Round 8 game, the dynamic duo know all about each other having both spent time at Redcliffe as well as facing off in Queensland Murri Carnivals.

“Glad to see him get a crack and he's a very good footy player and quick and fast, he did well tonight,” Fuller said.

“He was at Reddy for a little bit and then went down to Newcastle.

“The first time I came up against him was at the QMC and he got one over me then again, so good on him.”

David Armstrong tries to evade Josh Kerr and Trai Fuller.
David Armstrong tries to evade Josh Kerr and Trai Fuller. ©NRL Images

With Ponga ruled out for three months with a lisfranc injury, Armstrong has the opportunity to build on his memorable debut, starting with Newcastle's match next against the Warriors. However, he didn’t want to get too far ahead of himself.

“I'm just looking at it week-to-week, I'm not looking too far ahead … I am just trying to do everything right day-to-day at training,” Armstrong said.

“I think if you get most of that right, everything on the weekend will take care of itself.

“We have got a good senior group here, so they drive the standards and keep the ball rolling.”