In 2011, Sam Anderson was playing for the Newcastle Knights Under-20s team and little did he know two of the biggest names in Rugby League were after him.
The 20-year-old prop had to decide whether to keep playing with the Knights and possibly be coached by Wayne Bennett, after Bennett personally told Anderson he was part of the club’s future, or move to Sydney after Phil Gould offered him to play for the Penrith Panthers.
“I had a good year in Under-20s, won a couple of awards and ended up meeting with Phil Gould because our coach at the time was going to Penrith so he put that connection up,” Anderson told The Short Side Podcast for NSWRL.com.au.
“Phil came up and spoke to Mum and Dad and Wayne Bennett had signed with Newcastle at the time and we got an inkling.
“I actually got off the plane at the end of season trip and a private number popped up I thought ‘I better answer it’ and it just so happened to be Wayne, so as 20-year-old Maitland bloke in Newcastle I was pretty blown away.
“I took that opportunity and it was great to train under him for an off season and I spent a year there but ended up having some really good memories down at Penrith.”
At the end of 2012, Anderson was yet to make his NRL debut, so he decided to join Gould and he signed a one-year contract with the Penrith Panthers, successfully making his debut in Round 9 against the Melbourne Storm.
“Turning 20 and you’ve got two of the biggest names in the game ever trying to convince you,” Anderson said.
“It’s a hard decision but to be honest I committed to Newcastle because I grew up here and loved it but I didn’t really get an opportunity, so I was lucky that I was given another opportunity the following year.
“I came down to Penrith and I was really excited to get down there move down to Sydney and have a crack as a 21-year-old so it was just a feather in my cap that I had two experienced blokes speaking to me.”
The now 29-year-old is back at his old stomping ground and this year played for the Maitland Pickers in the Presidents Cup, helping them a premiership alongside Brock Lamb.