WINNING the Australian under 16 rugby league championship is the next goal for Old Bar's Kurtis Dark.
Dark's Newcastle Knights side will play Cairns Northern Pride in Townsville tomorrow afternoon. That fits in perfectly, for Dark can then watch his cousin, Boyd Cordner, in action for the Sydney Roosters that night against the North Queensland Cowboys at the same venue.
Dark, a lock, was named player of the match in Newcastle's 34-4 win over Penrith in the final of the under 16 Harold Mathews Cup at Leichhardt Oval last Saturday. He is the Manning River Times-Iguana Sportstar of the Week, earning a $50 open order at Iguana.
Dark knows that winning the national championship against a determined Queensland side in their home State will be a tall order.
But he has further reason to impress, for the NSW under 16 team to play Queensland at Suncorp before the first State of Origin will also be announced after the match.
"It would be great to make that side, he said.
Dark started training with the Knights last September.
"They approached me after I played for the State CCC (Combined Catholic Colleges) to see if I was interested in trying out,'' he said.
He had to make three trips a week to Newcastle for training apart from travelling on game days. But he isn't complaining, saying he enjoyed all aspects of the campaign.
The Mathews Shield is played over nine rounds before the semi-finals. Newcastle lost their first match but were unbeaten from there and went into the final as warm favourites. Dark assured that despite the score heavily favouring his side, it was a hard match. He was surprised to earn the player of the game award.
"Everyone played really well,'' he said.
Dark has no doubt his football has improved because of his stint with the Knights, especially his attack and he credits coach Tony Gleeson for this.
After his commitments end on Saturday he'll return to the Group Three competition with the Old Bar Pirates.
He'll bypass the chance to play schoolboy representative football this year but remains under contract with the Knights for next season and will start training in Newcastle again next September with the aim of earning a place in the SG Ball (under 18) side.
Longer term he hopes to stay with the Knights.
"They've been good to me,'' he said.
"I love it there.''