For young nib Newcastle Knights forward Brodie Jones, Wednesday’s closed trial match against the Melbourne Storm was a surreal moment.
“It was pretty hot, but it was a surreal experience,” gleamed Jones.
Still eligible for the Under 20s side again this year, Jones is yet to make his NRL debut but was gifted a career highlight when selected to travel to Melbourne.
“I personally wasn’t expecting it but when the squad was announced, I was pretty stoked,” Jones smiled.
“It was probably one of the hardest games I have ever been in, even though I played 40 minutes.
“Coming up against guys like Ryan Hoffman and all those blokes that have played so many first grade games, is very surreal.
“That was probably the biggest game of my career so far, so it’s been a pretty big few days.”
Sent on in the second half of the match, Jones was tasked with containing a solid Storm pack.
“I felt happy with my performance; there’s always a few little things to learn from but overall I felt it was pretty good,” Jones said.
“Everything felt positive during the game and before the game so that’s all you can ask, to continue to improve and everything feels on the way up.
“We worked pretty hard throughout the whole pre-season and to get a wrap from Browny (Nathan Brown) is pretty good.”
The pre-season has been invaluable for the young forward, who got the opportunity to train with the first grade squad for the first time.
Jones admits pre-season training has seen a significant improvement to his endurance, and he was rewarded for his hard work with a seat on the plane to Melbourne.
“Personally, I feel a lot fitter,” Jones explained.
“I’ve had a couple of niggles here and there but that’s pre-season and overall I feel as though I’m a much fitter player.
“The endurance side of things has improved and that has a lot to do with Tony (Ayoub) and the performance staff, who have put a lot of effort into us boys.”
And, the 19-year-old up-and-comer has his sights set high for the 2018 season.
“It’s everyone’s dream and everyone’s goal to play first grade, that’s the ultimate goal, but a solid Reserve Grade season I would be happy with,” Jones added.
“There’s no certainty on any position at all in Reserve Grade, so who knows where anyone could be playing.
“That’s the best thing about all the new boys coming in, the competition to get spots, and it’s making everyone here better.
“I have learned a lot already off people like Aidan (Guerra) and Pearcey (Mitchell Pearce) and all those boys, so they bring a lot of experience and knowledge to us younger fellas and it has been really good.”