July 23, 2024

A Knights fan flys a massive flag during the Round 1 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle, Friday, March 9, 2018. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

“I’m in career-best form, probably. I’m the deadliest warrior and no one can Stop me” Newcastle knight iron brutally send a clear warning to opponent team.. 

If Mitch Barnett had been playing for Newcastle, he doesn’t think he would have been selected as the 18th man for NSW in State of Origin II. But that speaks more to the forward’s development as a person since joining the Warriors than it does to disparage his old team. With his career-best showing during his second year based in Auckland, the 30-year-old’s selection in the team for the first two Origin games has been a fitting reward. In advance of Wednesday’s second game at the MCG, Barnett told AAP, “I’ve just sort of changed a lot of things in my life and matured a lot.”

Barnett knew he had reached his expiration date with the Knights when he signed with the Warriors in 2023. Barnett has become a fixture in the team after enduring the managerial change from Nathan Brown to Adam O’Brien over the course of seven seasons and 126 games. In retrospect before Origin II, Barnett acknowledges that a different Barnett would not have been considered for representative honors like as those presented by NSW coach Michael Maguire.

He was content to hit markers, punch in and punch out.

“Not the way I was going,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I really loved my time at Newcastle.

“I just think where the club was at and the people there probably didn’t think I was the player I am. I probably gave them no reason to – I was probably a bit comfortable.

“Moving to New Zealand was getting out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if I would have sort of matured the way I have if I’d stayed in Newcastle.”

Barnett himself has been surprised at just how much he has enjoyed life as a Warrior.

He signed a two-year extension to remain at the club earlier this month, though had initially intended to leave after his first contract expired at the end of 2025.

“I thought I was going to do my original deal and either be finished with footy or get something back in Australia,” he said.

“Then I got over there, worked hard and got along with ‘Webby’ (coach Andrew Webster) really well.

“I’m in career-best form, probably. I just thought, ‘Why should I leave?'”

Barnett admits it would appeal to his underdog spirit to make it onto the field and become only the second Warrior to play for NSW, after Ryan Hoffman.

“That’s our mentality for how we (the Warriors) play,” he said.

But Barnett also knows that would require at least one teammate suffering a game-ending concussion.

That’s not out of the question, though – Queensland activated 18th player Felise Kaufusi after Reece Walsh went down following Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii’s high shot in game one.

“I sort of hope (I don’t play) because that means someone in our team’s been injured but obviously I want to pull on the blue jersey and run out,” he said.

“I’ve just got to prep like I’m playing.”

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