WHEN Sam McIntyre turned up to pre-season training as a centre six months ago he didn’t expect to play his first game for the season in the second row.
But that’s the scenario facing the Port Macquarie Sharks junior ahead of the Newcastle Knights under-20 season opener against New Zealand Warriors on Sunday.
McIntyre will line up at Mt Smart Stadium with the unfamiliar number 12 on his back for the Novocastrians.
It’s another step along the path to a dream appearance in the National Rugby League for the former Shark who has been in the Knights setup for four years.
“I’ve been in the system for a while now and regularly started, but never played in the second row … I’ve always played in the centres,” McIntyre said.
The teenager has already had his fair share of success in the Hunter after being a member of the Knights grand final-winning under-16 team three years ago.
Last year he was in their SG Ball setup before he returned to the Newcastle Rugby League and played an integral role in South Newcastle’s premiership-winning side.
I’m a little fish in a big pond now instead of being a big fish in a little pond.Sam McIntyre
After watching his development closely, Knights National Youth Competition coach Todd Lowrie made the decision to transform McIntyre from a back to a forward halfway through the 2017 pre-season.
“The coach pulled me over one session and asked if I wanted to train in the back row for the remainder of the session and I said I’d train wherever he wanted me to train,” the teenager said.
“He said he liked my speed, size, footwork around the ruck and running lines around the edges.”
The former Newman Senior Technical College student realises it’s just a starting point.
“I’m a little fish in a big pond now instead of being a big fish in a little pond,” he said.
McIntytre knows the Warriors play a physical style of rugby league, but it’s a challenge he’s looking forward to.
“Whenever you play any of them you know they’re going to be big, strong and fast especially with a couple of the players we’re coming up against,” he said.
An ability to play in a variety of positions including five-eighth, centre, wing, fullback and now second-row adds another string to his bow.
“If anyone gets hurt I know I can fill in anywhere,” McIntyre said.
The Port Macquarie Shark knows he will have to continue to work hard and not become complacent and satisfied with making the run-on team.
“I want to play consistent footy in the back row this year and then keep my spot and not just be a part of the team,” he said.
“I want to be one of the leaders. I don’t want to make up the numbers, I want to make a difference.”
Kick-off is at 9.45am AEDT.