UNDER THE RADAR: Robbie Rochow at Knights training.ALONGSIDE the return of Knights legends Danny Buderus, Timana Tahu and Kade Snowden, Robbie Rochow’s homecoming has been comparatively low-key.
But if the 21-year-old utility forward has his way, by the end of the 2012 NRL season his name will be a familiar one to Newcastle fans.
Rochow is an East Maitland Griffins junior who in 2008 played first grade for Kurri Kurri and for Newcastle’s SGBall (under-18) team.
At the end of that season, he appeared unlikely to be retained by the Knights but was pleasantly surprised when Melbourne Storm offered him a position in their National Youth Competition squad.
‘‘There wasn’t really an opportunity for me to stay with Newcastle,’’ Rochow recalled.
‘‘Melbourne was foreign to me and I was a little bit scared at first, but it turned out to be one of the best things I ever did.
‘‘They asked me to come down and have a crack at the pre-season, and I ended up playing most of that 2009 season when we won the 20s premiership.
‘‘That was a big step up for me and going through the Melbourne system changed me as a footballer, in a good way I guess.’’
After graduating from the under 20s last year, Rochow remained with the Storm’s NRL feeder team, Cronulla Sharks, and played one first-grade game for Melbourne in both 2010 and last season.
‘‘The first game was during the Origin period when there were a few injuries and whatnot,’’ he said.
‘‘This year there was an opportunity for me to play more than one game, so it was a little bit disappointing to look back on that at the end of the year.
‘‘Next year if I got a chance to play in the NRL, I’d definitely want to make the most of it and give myself an opportunity to play more than one game.’’
A realistic Rochow admitted he was ‘‘a fair way off ’’ being able to achieve that dream. Although versatile enough to play as a prop or edge back-rower, he realises the Knights have an abundance of quality forwards who command higher perches on the pecking order.
‘‘All I’m worried about is having a good pre-season,’’ he said.
‘‘There is a lot of depth in the squad, so it’s definitely going to be a hard fight to get a start.
‘‘But if an opportunity comes my way, I’d be more than happy.’’
A Newcastle fan during the glory days that yielded premierships in 1997 and 2001, Rochow said his arm did not need much twisting when Knights strategic development manager Keith Onslow contacted him last season offering a one-year deal.
‘‘To come home, to a new coach and a new system, was pretty appealing to me,’’ he said.
‘‘The three years in Melbourne made me a completely different player, and I’m so much better for my experience down there.
‘‘I loved the three years I had down there, but hopefully I can take something out of that and it will help me out at the Knights.’’