Undertaking a steep learning curve in 2015, one of the hottest rising stars in the NRL, Jake Mamo, is ready to take the next step this season.
Igniting the Newcastle Knights all the way to the VB NSW Cup premiership, Mamo’s sensational performance at fullback didn’t come without its testing moments.
Seemingly playing with a target brightly painted on his back, the 21-year-old was met with ever-present extra attention from opponents throughout the finals series. Ultimately, his season was ended with a heinous act that rocked the rugby league world - an incident Newcastle boss Matt Gidley labelled the “most disgraceful act in a decade”.
Mamo was coward punched and knocked out cold, forcing him to leave the field in the NRL State Championship on NRL Grand Final day at ANZ Stadium.
However, the flying fullback or winger isn’t taking exception to the tough love he faced, accepting it’s just part of the game on his way to first grade.
“I haven’t noticed it directly at me,” Mamo said. “In the game of football, there are little individual battles on the field, and you see that between front-rowers, wingers and fullbacks. That’s part of the game and you don’t take anything to heart.
“Sometimes you may get people targeting you every now and then, but you take that in your stride and get on with the game, using that as a positive thing to improve your game.
“Obviously it wasn’t the greatest way to finish the game and the year.
“I’ve put in behind me now and just looking forward to next season.”
While rocketing through the NYC where he was named at fullback in the Under-20s Team of the Year, Mamo made his NRL debut for the Knights in round seven in 2014 against the Brisbane Broncos.
In 2015 Mamo plugged away with impressive form in the VB NSW Cup for the Knights and took full opportunity of playing fullback in the final rounds of the season before spurring the Knights to their magical finals fairytale.
“We did finish in seventh place and I don’t think anyone really expected much from us but as a team we knew what we were capable of,” Mamo said.
“It was a really good experience. I went back to help out in the reserve grade squad because I played there most of the year. We obviously had a good run into the finals and were able to take out the grand final. That was the first grand final I played in a long time and regardless of whether it’s first grade, reserve grade or even an under-18s grand final, it’s still a grand final and it’s still a really exciting time and experience.”
Playing 16 games in the NRL, and with a list of accolades – including the Darren Lockyer man of the match in the Under 20s State of Origin, a Junior Kangaroos jumper and a VB NSW Cup premiership – already under his belt, Mamo is ready for the next phase in his career.
“Number one priority would be playing 24 or as many first grade games as I can whether that’s on the wing or at fullback, wherever really, I’ll be happy to play anywhere,” Mamo said. “That’s the number one goal. Obviously you want to stay injury free, so that’s (number) one and two goals."
The Knights' began preseason training earlier this month under new coach Nathan Brown – and they’re determined to leave this season’s wooden-spoon finish behind them.
“That was last year,” Mamo said. “We will keep that in the back of our minds because we don’t want to get it (the wooden spoon) again. It’s only three weeks into preseason at the moment, those discussions will be left closer to the start of the season. At the moment, we’re just preparing as well as we can so that we’re not in that same spot next year.”
Novocastrians are hoping Mamo and the Knights can translate their VB NSW Cup premiership triumph into great NRL success in 2016.