Given the large number of players who made their NRL debuts in Round 1 we asked some of the game’s biggest names what they remember of their maiden appearance in the top grade.
Sam Thaiday (Broncos) – Broncos v Bulldogs, Round 18, 2003
"I debuted against the Bulldogs and this is when the Bulldogs had a fairly great forward pack. Andrew Gee was my captain. My first run I took the ball up off the kick-off and ran straight at Mark O’Meley and he absolutely creased me. He wrestled me a bit too long so we got a penalty and kicked for touch. I then ran straight at him off the tap and he creased me again. I learned a few lessons in that game but it really set me up for my career ahead. It instilled toughness in me."
James Gavet (Warriors) – Bulldogs v Broncos, Round 23, 2012
"My debut went pretty quickly at the Bulldogs. I think I played like 17 minutes and I kind of broke the line with a carry, but the game was just way too fast and my lungs felt like they were the size or marbles."
Brad Takairangi (Eels) – Roosters v Tigers, Round 2, 2010
"All I can remember is getting the win. It was in 2010 against the Wests Tigers and I came off the bench [for the Roosters]. I was playing alongside blokes like Todd Carney and Braith Anasta. It was a good year to debut because they made the grand final but unfortunately I didn’t get to play too many more games after it because I was injured for most of the year. It was good to get a taste though."
Alex Johnston (Rabbitohs) – Rabbitohs v Broncos, Round 8, 2014
"Being next to the boys when they sang the anthem and being so tight was great. And also scoring the first try obviously was a big thing for me."
Justin O’Neill (Cowboys) – Storm v Roosters, Round 14, 2010
"On my debut we had a bit of a rough game. We went down to the Roosters and probably bombed two tries so my debut is not the one I want to remember. My second game was actually against the Cowboys and I scored a hat-trick. But the highlight from my debut was just playing first grade and playing for the Storm, which was a massive achievement to play alongside players like Billy Slater, Cameron [Smith], Cooper [Cronk] and ‘GI’ (Greg Inglis).
Anthony Don (Titans) – Titans v Eels, Round 6, 2013
"I was lucky enough to get the first try against Parramatta and a lot of my mates backed me for first try-scorer at $17 or $18 and had a good win, not that I’ve seen any beers or anything in return. All week I was OK and actually thought I was going to be a lot more nervous than what I was but then it hit me in the warm-up and I got really nervous. After I had my first carry though I was pretty sweet and got into the game."
Tony Williams (Bulldogs) – Eels v Raiders, Rd 13, 2008
"I think I had a few good runs there. Palming Joel Monaghan, I think that was fun. My debut was very memorable and it’s something I’ll always cherish. It was at a club (Parramatta) where I’d played all of my junior footy, so I really enjoyed it."
Sam Tagataese (Sharks) – Storm v Knights, Round 4, 2007
"We were coming out of a scrum and I chased after the guy with the ball and I whacked him. All I heard then was the boys just go: "Good hit Taga". It wasn’t a full on big shot, it was just like a covering tackle but that definitely gave me a confidence boost. We won as well, it was a scrappy game but all I remember is that one tackle. I think it was Dallas Johnson who came and tapped me on the back after it and I remember thinking, Oh yeah, I’m in now!"
Nathaniel Roache (Warriors) – Warriors v Tigers, Round 1, 2016
"It was actually before the game, being presented with my first jersey. Mum and Dad came in and presented my debut jersey for me. That’s something I will never forget, Dad getting emotional and seeing how much it meant to them was special."
Kyle Feldt (Cowboys) – Cowboys v Rabbitohs, Round 21, 2013
"My best memory is probably running down Nathan Merritt to save a try."
Mitchell Moses (Wests Tigers) – Tigers v Panthers, Round 17, 2014
"Running out onto Leichhardt Oval. Running out and seeing that hill just packed. It was a sunny Sunday at Leichhardt and seeing that hill packed and running out and not being able to hear anything but the roar. People are trying to talk to you and it was just 100 miles an hour."
Kyle Turner (Rabbitohs) – Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers, Round 3, 2014
"I think I had a lot of minutes in that game. That was a confidence thing for me. I sort of realised that I could play that 80-minute role in first grade, so it was very reassuring."
Michael Gordon (Eels) – Panthers v Sharks, Round 8, 2006
"We got flogged but I do remember running out because it was the opening of the new part of the stadium at Penrith. The run out was exciting because it was a big crowd. Usually playing reserve grade there are not many people there and all of a sudden you’re running out to a packed stadium – that was great."