Kade Hardy was getting used to the nomadic lifestyle.
One position one week, another the next. It was just part and parcel of breaking into the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs’ first-grade side.
But in 2018, after a couple of seasons shifting around the backline, Hardy has started to find his feet wearing the No.1 jersey.
The 23-year-old Tomago Aluminium electrician, midway through his third campaign at the Coalfields club, has relished the chance to play consecutive weeks in the same spot.
“The last couple of years I’ve moved around a bit,” Hardy said. “My preferred position is fullback, but I’ve played in the centres as well for defensive purposes.
“They are such a different type of fitness and there’s no real substitute for experience and adapting to the quicker pace of the top grade.
“It’s been nice to have some continuity this year at fullback, playing there week to week for a run of games.”
Hardy, an East Maitland Griffins junior from age 12 after converting from soccer, played under 18s at the Pickers as well as the 2015 season in seniors before changing over to Kurri.
It has been this winter in particular he has noticed the most change at the Bulldogs’ kennel, not only winning more games on the field but a slightly different approach off the field.
“This year has been different, and a lot better,” Hardy said. “Especially off the field. We had a good pre-season, but it wasn’t all running, there was some footy specific stuff in there as well. Same with training, it hasn’t just been your normal Tuesday and Thursday routine.
“Other stuff away from footy too like mind sets, taking examples from elsewhere like the Japanese World Cup team. We’ve had a few speakers in as well instead of training.
“And we did an MMA session to help us wrestling wise with tackling technique and position recognition.”
Outside one week off with a shoulder complaint, Hardy has been injury free this year unlike the broken foot that ended his 2017 season on the sidelines.
Hardy’s seventh on the Newcastle Rugby League point scorers list with 42, featuring two tries and four goals in Sunday’s late 24-20 loss to leaders Lakes.
The teams meet again at Cahill Oval this weekend.
“It’s a chance to get one back, and we probably owe them [Lakes] one after the weekend,” Hardy said.
“We put ourselves in a good position to win that game but cost ourselves with ill-discipline and inexperienced mistakes.”
Kurri have now slipped outside the five for the first time this year, having dropped four of their last five games.
“Anyone can beat anyone in this competition and we’ve shown we can match it with the best teams,” he said.
“And once you get to finals it’s a completely different ball game, making it’s the hardest part.”