It was only a 12-month stint down in Newcastle, but it was long enough for Tony Thompson to gain a valuable insight into what's required on the path to the National Rugby League.
In 2020 the Group 3 rugby league season was cancelled which came an opportune time for the Wauchope fullback to try his luck and try to break into the Newcastle Knights lower grades.
The club decided not to field a team in the 2021 Jersey Flegg competition which allowed the 19-year-old to return home.
While it didn't work out this time, Thompson admits the whole experience was an eye-opener and he hasn't given up hope of returning one day.
"It was pretty intense down there, there was no mucking around," he said.
"As soon as you've got the boots on you've got to be into it. There's no half-assing around."
He says it certainly wasn't a waste of time and he found the solution to unlocking what could sometimes be fragile confidence.
As a lot of rugby league experts know, a confident fullback can often be the secret ingredient to a team's attack.
"It helped my confidence a lot because when I was younger when I made a mistake I'd float out of games, but now I can put it behind me and go onto the next play which is pretty big for me," he said.
"When I made a mistake I used to put my head down, but now I'm able to look past it.
"You've got to have a short mind; (when) you've made a mistake you can't go back in time so you may as well keep looking forward.
"If you keep looking back the game's already gone by the time you're ready to go again."
The intensity of pre-season training was significantly different to what is done in Group 3.
"Up here I was up and around (the top), but down there the first couple of weeks shook me a bit, it was very difficult to start with," he said.
For now, he's only looking forward after making the decision to return home to finish his trade while rejoining the Blues as they aim to go one step better than their grand final defeat in 2019.
"I'll probably move down there next year which is good for me personally, but I learned a lot already," he said.
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