Nick Meaney has no regrets about signing with the Bulldogs for the next three seasons.
But the young Newcastle fullback says making his NRL debut with the Knights fulfilled an ambition that means a lot to him.
“I love it here in Newcastle so it was really important to me to get that debut for the club before I go down to Sydney,”he said.
“The Knights gave me my start and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Meaney 20, handled the pressure of deputising for the injured Kalyn Ponga in his first top grade game in an 18-16 win over Parramatta on Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium like a seasoned veteran.
And he is almost certain to feature again this Saturday night against Gold Coast with coach Nathan Brown reiterating yesterday he won’t be rushing Ponga back from a hamstring strain.
“Kalyn is desperate to play but he hasn’t quite got through the sort of volume of work he needed to late last week and he is obviously too important to risk,” Brown told the Newcastle Herald.
Meaney said he will be ready to go wherever he is chosen.
“If Kalyn is back, that’s fine, I’ll go back to Cup but if not, I’ll make sure I’m ready to go again,” he said.
The Ballina Seagulls junior said there was a mixture of relief and excitement after making a winning debut.
“Relief and excitement – that pretty much sums it up,”he said.
“It was just great to get the win in the end.
“There were definite nerves there, particularly during the week when I was thinking about the game and how it might pan out
“But I knew once I got out there it would all go away. It’s the same game, just a fair bit more intense but I was probably more excited than anything else.”
Asked about the build-up, Meaney said:
“It was a long week. The nerves kicked in pretty much as soon as I got the call from Browny but I did get some sleep which was good.
“There were times leading up to the game when it’s hard not to think about what might go wrong.
“I had to prepare a little differently because it was a night game and I’m used to playing Cup at midday or in the middle of the arvo.
“So the day probably dragged out a little more but it was all good. I’m just happy to have got my chance.”
Meaney knew he would be bombed by the Eels.
“I knew they would target me with kicks being my first game and I was really happy I didn’t drop anything,” he said.
“They tested me out early with a high ball and as soon as I took it, I was fine.”
Meaney is in his third season at the club having been player of the year in the Under 20’s in 2016 before winning the same award in NSW Cup last season.
Prior to that, he played in two Northern Rivers first grade premiership-winning Ballina sides as a 16 year old in 2014 and again the following year.
“It was a good chance back then to play against men at a young age,”he said.
“I played in two grandfinals up there so I always felt a bit more confident when I got down here and had to come up against players older than me when I got to NSW Cup.
“You take that experience through the grades and I reckon it’s really helped me along the way.”
Asked did he have any second thoughts about committing himself to the Bulldogs from next season, Meaney said there are no regrets.
“I’m happy with it [the decision]. I’m excited to get down there,” he said.
“I want to be a fullback and Kalyn is here.”
Meaney admitted he had considered the long term possibility of Ponga moving into the halves at the Knights during his decision-making process.
“I actually talked to my manager about it,” he said.
“He said Kalyn could go to five-eighth in a couple of years. But you can’t really rely on other people and what they are going to do in the future and base the decision around it.
“I see myself as a fullback next year and in the years to come, a first grade fullback, and I think the Bulldogs give me the best chance to do that.
“The way that they looked at, they wanted a young roster coming in to build off the back of and they have Cogs [Jack Cogger] going down there as well so going down there – it’s going to be exciting.”
Meanwhile, Lachlan Fitzgibbon seems certain to come straight back into the starting side against the Titans after serving a two game suspension.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.