Newcastle Knights hooker Chris Randall admitted he was “gassed” 20 minutes into making his debut against the Penrith Panthers but he still managed to dig deep and come up with a record-breaking 71 tackles.
The Knights and the Panthers fought out a 14-all draw on Sunday but the performance of Newcastle was lauded by plenty of people afterwards after they lost Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson to injury.
Randall was forced to play longer minutes after Watson left the field early in the first half and the deadlock still couldn’t be broken after an additional 10 minutes for golden point.
The new six again rule and lack of possession had the Knights up against the wall in the first half after Randall came off the bench, remembering how much of a fan coach O’Brien is of solid defence.
“Probably the first 20 minutes out there were the hardest for me, I was so gassed and we copped a couple of back-to-back sets on the line, I was in a world of hurt there but it was a big surprise the speed, it was pretty tough,” he told the Short Side Podcast with Jamie Soward for nswrl.com.au.
“It definitely did feel pretty quick with the new six again rule but I think the possession rate was 60 something to 30 something for most of the game and I felt all of that and that wouldn’t have helped either.
“Adsy loves hard work and prides himself on players that can defend and that’s been one of his principles going through the preseason, if you play for the team you have to be a strong defender.”
The Short Side with Jamie Soward | Episode 10: Chris Randall
O’Brien had plenty to be impressed about with his young hooker, who grew up idolising and modelling his game off Danny Buderus and Andrew Johns.
Randall made his debut alongside two other local juniors in Tex Hoy and Brodie Jones but it wasn’t an easy one after Pearce was heavily concussed in the fourth minute and took no further part in the game.
“I thought going out with those boys was pretty special, I’ve played with them and they’re local boys as well, they’ve all grown up in Newcastle so to share that moment with them was pretty cool,” Randall said.
“I don’t know how many games between us but we’ve been together for a couple of seasons so to get an NRL debut together was something special and I think all the boys lifted around that and used that as a bit motivation and it would have helped going out with circumstances that we had.
“I was just so proud of the boys to come from 14-nil down to dig in without Pearcey, we ended up losing Connor and Glads (Tim Glasby) went off with a head knock as well.
“To dig in from there and not have them score any more points was a massive effort and shows the character of the squad this year.”
After being picked up from a local competition and not playing Under-20’s, Randall had his doubts about his NRL dreams but is now being tutored by the likes of NSW Origin stars David Klemmer and Pearce.
“Off the boys I try and learn as much as I can, they’re the best in the game so they teach me a lot, whether it’s defence, attack, across the board.”