Brodie Jones: 'Still trying to process' that amazing debut match for Knights

STILL PROCESSING IT: Brodie Jones who made his first grade debut in the thrilling draw against Penrith.
STILL PROCESSING IT: Brodie Jones who made his first grade debut in the thrilling draw against Penrith.

Brodie Jones knows no matter what he does for the rest of his rugby league career, his debut match will be "right up there" come the end.

"It was crazy ... just totally crazy," he said. "I'm still trying to process it all."

He is speaking on the Monday after making his NRL first grade debut just 24 hours earlier for the Knights in their amazingly courageous 14-all draw against Penrith.

It was a match that had everything - from injuries to incredible tenacity, from blown tries to extra time momentum swings, bone-crunching intensity and multiple game winning field goal attempts from both sides - and the fact it was the first game back after the COVID-19 break made it seem even more special. If that's possible.

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Either way, without a doubt it will go down as one of the best games not just of this season, but for many years.

I asked the 22-year-old former Cessnock Goanna and Maitland St Mary's student to reflect on it.

"It was crazy from the start," he recalled. "I was put on standby for Lachlan Fitzgibbon because he had a finger injury. And then in the captain's run the day before the game he came through it well, until in the last 30 seconds when he suddenly strained his hamstring.

"So I'm in the squad. I was so nervous in the shed before the game ... easily more nervous than I've ever been. My emotions were flowing."

That was probably exacerbated by the fact he received his first grade jersey from none other than Danny Buderus, one of the Knights' greatest sons.

But any chance to reflect on that soon disappeared when captain Mitchell Pearce had to leave the field with a head knock after only three minutes.

Five minutes later hooker Connor Watson rolled his ankle in a tackle and Brodie was told to warm up. Watson received treatment but decided to play on, so Brodie turned around, and was about to resume his seat, when Watson decided he couldn't go on.

Brodie was on the field.

"It's what, eight or nine minutes old, we're already down two players, and I'm out there," he said. "Who'd have thought that?"

And what was his initial reaction?

"The speed of the play, I've never experienced anything like that before.

A young Brodie Jones back in 2010 as captain of the Ellalong school team.

A young Brodie Jones back in 2010 as captain of the Ellalong school team.

"And the intensity too. It was really tough and there was some big hitting going on.

"I knew I had worked hard through the break, doing all the training that was expected, but nothing can quite prepare you for just how fast it is."

Not that the kid from Cessnock struggled. Playing in the second row he got stuck in and didn't let up.

Without their influential playmaker and also their dummy half, the Knights fell behind 14-nil and valiantly tried to stay within touch.

At one stage Penrith had had 42 tackles inside the Knights' quarter, compared to just six by Newcastle. It could only be a matter of time.

"The big guys, the senior players kept driving us on," Brodie said. "They kept saying to hang in, to keep covering for each other."

Somehow the Knights managed to get it back to 14-all at full time, an effort hat will have brought a huge smile to coach Adam O'Brien. Sheer bloody grit from a team that flatly refused to fold.

"I was all right in the lungs but my legs were gone going into extra time. But you're relying on adrenalin and that desire not to let your team down," Brodie said. "When the field goals were coming, that sort of lifted me again because it became a game of metres and everything was on the line."

But without the playmakers and field goal exponents from both sides - Penrith's Nathan Cleary was also missing - neither side was able to seal the points.

In the shed afterwards Brodie said it felt more like a win.

"I think we all knew what a gutsy effort it had been - down two players, extra time. I think it's the sort of game that can set a side up for the season.

Knight coach Adam O'Brien.

Knight coach Adam O'Brien.

"And to hear Pearcey say it's one of the most courageous efforts from a team he's been associated with, that's special. It makes me realise just how we all stuck at it together, as a team. The way you want to."

As for his own effort, he wasn't too sure of the stats. He thought he made 51 tackles, even though his previous best "was 46 or maybe 47" and not a lot of ball carries.

"I don't know how many yards I ran, but I only had about six carries. I just seemed to be tackling all the time."

And now that he's tasted first grade in such a momentous match, his goal is to play as many first grade games as he can this season.

He's off contact at the end of the season and all he wants is a new contract with the Knights. He's not looking for a change.

But if you thought there might be some kind of celebration that night from a young kid who's just made his first grade debut, you're wrong.

"I couldn't sleep. My mind was going, trying to process all that had happened. In the end I just sat up and watched the replay."

Once?

"Three times."

This story Brodie Jones: My unbelievable debut match for the Knights first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.