Sometimes in rugby league, the ultimate reward for one’s persistence can be right there in front of you - yet still so very far away at the same time.
Many players over the years have treaded the same well-worn path; working tirelessly for years and putting in the effort week in and week out, season after season, in the hope of grabbing that treasured but sometimes elusive NRL debut.
For some, the dream eventually becomes a reality, for others it doesn’t, but in the case of Kurt Kara, many believe that 2014 will be the year that all of his persistence finally pays off.
Having been invited to train with the Sydney Roosters’ NRL squad over the summer, Kara has put his foot squarely in the NRL selection doorway after impressing many with his tireless work ethic and wonderful ability.
Perhaps the man who knows Kurt Kara the footballer best is his coach for the past three seasons at Newtown, Greg Matterson. And the man known by the Bluebag faithful simply as ‘Matto’ always knew what Kara was capable of and believed it was just a matter of him getting a chance to impress.
“From day one when he arrived to train with the Roosters NRL squad he has just been killing it,” Matterson said.
“I know ‘Robbo’ (Roosters coach Trent Robinson) has loved his attitude and the way he has gone about it, and all of the coaching staff have been really impressed.
“He is a great leader and such a tough kid and the way he has battled through injuries over the years and yet still managed to turn up and play well on game day tells you so much about what makes him tick.”
Matterson clearly isn’t exaggerating Robinson’s admiration for the hard as nails hooker because off the back of Kara’s summer stint, his part time Jets contract has been upgraded to a full time Roosters contract.
Back in February Kara played in a Roosters trial against the Knights on the Central Coast. It may have just been a trial, but it presented Kara with an invaluable opportunity to play alongside the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Jared Waerea-Hargeaves, James Maloney, Boyd Cordner and Anthony Minichiello in a preview of what may be yet to come.
In fact, Kara was 18th man for the Roosters last weekend against South Sydney and he sees that achievement as a reward for his impressive pre-season efforts.
“I’ve been privileged enough to have been 18th man for these past couple of games so that has probably been a little recognition for the hard work I have been doing and obviously the coaching staff has noticed that.” Kara said.
Training and playing alongside so many NRL premiership and representative players has seen Kara take his efforts to another level in an attempt to match their intensity - which can only bode well for his chances of making an NRL debut over the coming months.
“To start the season off with that (trial in Wyong) was awesome and it has inspired me a lot to train harder in the hope of playing in an NRL game with those guys,” Kara said.
“I’m training hard and knocking on the door… I just have to wait for it to open really.”
And if an NRL debut were to come his way in 2014, it would be the feather in a cap that has been some time in the making. Kara’s progression to this point has encapsulated all of the tenacious qualities that make him such a wonderful footballing talent but also a fierce competitor.
Having played in some talented Warriors NYC sides in ‘08 and ‘09, Kara made his way across the Tasman and played with the Western Suburbs Magpies in the NSW Cup in 2010. Kara’s performances for the Magpies caught the eye of fellow foundation club the Jets, and in 2011, Kara made the move to Henson Park. He has never looked back.
Viewed by many as the glue that holds the Jets together, Kara has since gone on to play 66 games for the club, claimed the ‘Club Person of the Year’ award in 2012 and ‘Best and Fairest’ award in 2013, as well as playing a leading role in the club’s fabled 2012 VB NSW Cup Premiership.
Once again in 2014 Kara will be a key ingredient for the Jets as they look to atone for what was a disappointing 2013 season by their lofty standards, and he is looking forward to another great season for the Bluebags.
“’Matto’ is a great coach and he sees something good in a lot of the young kids we have coming through this year,” Kara said.
“Losing Henare (Wells) and Nafe (Seluini) and a couple of other players as well is going to be a big loss for us but I’m excited to see how the young boys in the team develop. “
Whether or not Kurt goes on to make his NRL debut in 2014, or in the years to come for that matter, remains to be seen. But if persistence counts for anything, it would be a gamble to bet against him.
Kurt and the Jets will kick off their 2014 VB NSW Cup campaign this Sunday against the Wentworthville Magpies at Ringrose Park. Kick-off is at 3pm and this match will also be broadcasted by our friends at ALIVE fm