Aiden Guerra used to hate coming to Newcastle as a Sydney Roosters player.
“It was just one of those places where you knew you were in for a fight,”he said.
“No matter how the Knights were going, whether it was for 30 mins, 40 mins or 60 mins and maybe even 80 mins - it was just one of those grounds.
“You knew it would be physical and you knew you were going to get heckled by the crowd and if you gave the crowd a chance to get in it, they would definitely be a 14th man on the field.”
As for actually living in the city? No way.
“Never thought that would happen,”he says. “But here I am and we are loving life here. There are so many positives to the place. And there is the added bonus of trying to do something positive on the field as well.”
If the truth be known, it took Guerra and his wife Belinda only a few hours to fall in love with the city after moving up at the end of last season.
So much so the Guerras, who have a two year old daughter Olive, have purchased a house in Merewether after renting at The Junction and could find themselves moving in as early as next week with the couple pushing for an early settlement.
They are already talking about potentially spending the rest of their lives here.
“It’s hard to predict the future but it’s definitely a place where we see ourselves living for a long period of time,” he said.
“We’ve just bought a place at the back of Merewether so I’m excited to really set down our roots permanently.”
But the city itself wasn’t the attraction for the former Queensland Origin and Kangaroo backrower initially.
When he sat down with Knights coach Nathan Brown at Brown’s Dudley home last season to talk about his playing future with a new deal at the Roosters unlikely, it was all about what a player of Guerra’s experience could bring to a club looking to drag itself out of the cellar.
As with his former Roosters teammate Mitchell Pearce, the ability to be able to influence and make a difference to a young squad on the way up was what appealed to him.
“It was probably the challenge more than anything else that made me want to come,” he said.
“I had the opportunity to have a positive influence on a place rather than just sign a contract and rock up and not really add anything.
“I felt like I could add to getting the club back to where it should be. I spoke to another couple of clubs but I just felt this was the right fit for me.”
In a sign of his commitment, Guerra could have represented Italy in the World Cup but pulled out to ensure he was in Newcastle for the start of the pre-season.
“I just thought it was a good opportunity to come up, get the family sorted and get into training and show that I was really committed to the club,” he said.
“As much as it meant to me to play for Italy and represent my family in the 2013 World Cup, the decision for me seemed like it was the best one to make both professionally and for my family.”
Ask Guerra for an honest assessment of where he believes the squad is at on the eve of their opening round clash against Manly at home on Friday night and he doesn’t pull any punches.
“The team Browny has picked for round one, there is a lot of talent there,”he said.
“We do have the potential to be a really good side but it’s probably not going to happen straight away. That’s just the reality of the competition we are in.
“There is hype and excitement around Newcastle because you can just see the people want the club back being successful. We are working really hard to get there but it is not going to come easy. I’m just excited for the challenge.”
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