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NRLW: Predebon happy to stay ‘home’ at Knights

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A full-time rugby league career was probably the last thing on Tayla Predebon’s mind growing up in the small country town of Gloucester.

But, it’s all the young Newcastle Knights prop focuses on these days.

The powerhouse front-rower, and three-time NRLW winner, returned to training with her team-mates this week ahead of the 2024 Telstra Women’s Premiership kicking off next month.

And, she’s keen to rip in after lengthening her stay with the Hunter-based club until the end of 2026.

Knights
The two-time NRLW premiers, the Newcastle Knights, met their fans at a civic reception after their 2023 success. Photo: Rod Thompson

“It’s unbelievable, I’m so excited to finally announce that I have extended my contract,” Predebon said.

“I’ll be here for another couple of years.

“Playing for your ‘hometown’ just means so much more.

“I want every win [so much more] because I really love this town and the Hunter is my home, especially coming from Gloucester.

“When I was younger, I was always down here visiting and things like that.

“So, now, to finally call Newcastle home and play for this region is outstanding.

“I’m absolutely loving every second of it.”

The 23-year-old made her debut, and won a title, with the Sydney Roosters in 2021.

She then linked up with the Knights, playing a key role in their recent on-field successes and back-to-back crowns.

Yet, Predebon could have been lost to the round-ball game.

“To be honest, I really fell into league because I wanted a day off from school,” she said.

“So, I got a team together, with my local PA teacher, and contested a gala day.

“We travelled down to Raymond Terrace… and actually won.

“A few country girls carved up, so it was really good and great fun.

“That’s when I fell in love with it.

“These days, I always see Facebook posts from Gloucester High, with photos of the girls still competing at galas, which is absolutely amazing.

“It’s really special to know that I’ve left such a mark on the town.

“I want to show those young girls at home that it is achievable if you work hard and commit to it… like anything is possible.

“However, I didn’t grow up watching rugby league because my brothers are soccer mad.

“So, I’m forever grateful that I found it.

“I also played a bit in Wauchope on the Mid-North Coast before coming back down here.”

With Newcastle eyeing off its third consecutive premiership, now under the reins of Ben Jeffries (BJ), the Country Origin star is not fazed by preconceived expectations in 2024.

“I know some people would probably find it a high-pressure situation,” Predebon said.

“But, for us, we’re tackling it in a really different way.

“We’re seeing it as a privilege to be hunted.

“And, we can’t wait to evolve as a team and nailing those one percenters.

“It all starts from this week with pre-season training.

“I feel nice and fit and ready to go.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be tough no matter what.

“Nothing gets you game-fit like actual matches.

“However, I’m prepared mentally and physically.

“I also know BJ will approach training really well… and we’ll have lots of ‘con games’ in there, so we’ll be ready to go for round one.”

The Knights begin their dual title defence against the Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium on Thursday 25 July.

And, as an added bonus, 2024 will herald a women’s reserve grade competition, much to the delight of Predebon.

“For the girls who don’t make the top squad every week, but can keep playing, I think it’s amazing,” she said.

“It’s a huge step for the women’s game to have that there.

“It gives those players an opportunity to thrive and earn their [NRLW] spot

“That’ll push us all to play better.

“Competition’s a good thing.

“It’s going to be a huge season.

“But, I’m sure we’ll be fine.

“The Knights fans are honestly the best.

“I know we say it all the time, however no community gets behind you like Newcastle does.”

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