He’s Newcastle’s old-fashioned toiler in the middle of the park, who himself admits he wasn’t born into the no.9 jersey he now possesses. If there’s one place for Tyler Randell to become a regular NRL hooker, however, it’s the Newcastle Knights.
Randell, who has played 39 NRL games for the Knights and 19 of those as starting rake, had seen out much of his career in the halves, centres and second row before earning a first-grade call-up in late 2014. As he continues to seek improvement in his game, he does so with some significant hooking talent looking over his shoulder.
Knights head coach Nathan Brown, who played the majority of his 172 Dragons games in the no.9 jersey, is one hooker on the coaching staff, while new Intrust Super Premiership NSW mentor Simon Woolford filled the same role for the Raiders. Woolford’s arrival follows the departure of one of the all-time greats, NSW True Blue Danny Buderus, who was a part of the system in 2016. Randell knows he is blessed to be able to tap into such a wealth of experience.
“Personally there’s nothing better than having ex-players tell you how to train, how to play,” Randell tells NSWRL.com.au. “You definitely pay a lot more attention when you have blokes like (Brown, Woolford and formerly Buderus) telling you what you should be doing. Before they even say anything, you’ve got that much respect for them.
“Hooker hasn’t been my position my whole career, so to have experienced blokes like that giving you feedback is definitely something I need to pay attention to.”
After a disappointing hit-out against the Warriors in Round 1, the Knights responded with a much-improved effort this afternoon, going down 26-18 to the Wyong Roos. Even before the side notches up its first win of 2017, Randell knows Woolford has had a positive effect on the playing group.
“He’s been good, ‘Germ’,” Randell says. “He’s definitely been very proactive and he holds nothing back, which is good.
“We want to put last year behind us and hopefully we can start putting some good performances together as a club.”
The Aberdeen Tigers junior has shown in the past his ability to be a first grader in the past; he has represented the NSW Residents side and was the Knights’ Rookie of the Year in 2015. Randell knows that is the team’s performance, however, rather than his own, that will affect his hopes of an NRL return.
“I’ve just got to prove when I play reserve grade that I should be playing first grade,” Randell says. “To start that off we need to start winning as a team and then as individuals we’ll start getting rewarded.
“Before we start doing that I think we haven’t really got a case to put forward.”
Despite the clear improvement from last week, Randell was disappointed in the Knights’ defeat to their Central Coast rivals and the side has hopes to be far more competitive this season. While Newcastle’s early-season NRL form will make it difficult for the 24-year-old to break back into the top grade, the Intrust Super Premiership NSW outfit will be better for his inclusion.