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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Cessnock coach predicts big things for Knights rookie

Cessnock Goannas coach Todd Edwards believes Brayden Musgrove boasts all the qualities to succeed in the NRL.

And, if anyone is in a position to make such a claim, it’s the premiership-winning mentor.

Edwards gladly welcomed the local junior – who essentially kicked off 2020 with the Manly Sea Eagles – back to the fold, with the powerful young centre playing an integral role in the side’s march to the Newcastle Rugby League title at the expense of Souths.

Now, Musgrove has another shot at the big time, after signing a two-year NRL contract with the Newcastle Knights this week.

“He’s a good player, mate,” Edwards said.

“Brayden was floating around Manly [at the start of the season], however he ended up here again.

“But, he’s always been above average. He showed that last year in our competition just how good he is. Physically, Brayden has the right attributes.

“He’s an athlete, a big, tall kid. If he gets his opportunity (in the NRL), I’m sure he’ll take it.”

Cessnock Goannas coach Todd Edwards

Edwards hopes Musgrove’s journey from the Coalfields club will motivate other Goannas to follow their dreams, too.

“Yeah, definitely,” he said.

“I hope his success inspires the young blokes around here, especially those he played alongside last season.

“They’re a mile away [from the NRL] but, at the same time, not that far away.

“If a couple of things go their way, they could be with Brayden.

“His presence here [in 2020], with the younger fellows, was great.

“Even though he’s a pretty, naturally, quiet kid and didn’t say too much at training or on game days, he let his footy do the talking on the field.

“However, when he did speak, the boys certainly listened.”

Edwards said Musgrove’s “experience” was also important in developing the culture at the Goannas.

“He brought a little bit of professionalism here, too,” he told the Newcastle Weekly. “After being in that competitive environment [in Sydney], it rubbed off on the rest of the playing group – and that’s great.

“It makes my job as coach so much easier when you have guys like Brayden. It drives standards. That’s what we’re trying to do at Cessnock.

“Joel Edwards is another bloke who’s played at an elite level (with stints at the Knights, Wests Tigers and Canberra Raiders).

“He drives standards high, too. That’s what this place is about – and what we’re trying to improve on.

Cessnock Goannas junior Joel Edwards.

“We have a pretty good nursery here, although we don’t boast a number of feeder clubs, or six or seven ‘feeders’ like other clubs in our comp.

“We rely solely on the one.

“So, we’re just trying to get everything as right as we can – and what we can control.”

Ironically, Musgrove re-joins the Knights, the organisation where he started his rugby league journey, aged 15, in the Harold Matthews Cup.

And, as for 22-year-old, himself, he’s “very grateful for the opportunity” and excited to link up with Newcastle again on a full-time contract.

“Mum and dad have always believed in my ability, but I had my doubts thinking other players were better,” he said.

“Now, I’m comfortable playing at this level and have set my sights on an NRL debut.

“Last year playing at Cessnock helped me find the love for footy again. I decided to take the pressure off and just enjoy playing with my mates.

“At the end of the season, I realised how much I missed professional footy and wanted to chase that dream again.”

The new deal will see Musgrove remain a Knight until at least the end of 2022.

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