Wallabies have landed
By GREG WHITE
LIKE many Australian kids Sam Norton-Knight has one recollection of his first visit to Coffs Harbour.
"We stopped at the Big Banana and had our photos taken," the newly capped Wallaby said while preparing to take up residence in the city.
"While I haven't stayed overnight there have been plenty of trips through town as we travelled up and down the highway."
The news he'd been named as one of nine rookies in the 33-man squad came while Norton-Knight was visiting family on the Gold Coast.
"We'd just sat down to dinner when the phone rang," he said.
"Initially I was shocked but pretty pleased at the same time.
"Dinner turned into a huge celebration."
While he already knew captain George Gregan from his Brumbie days and most of the young guns, shaking hands with the older Wallaby brigade was a daunting experience.
"Some I only knew by reputation as they played with other Super 14 clubs.
"It's not always easy to approach someone you've looked up to for years but having George on hand is a big help."
Norton-Knight believes his captain's stern reputation is nothing like reality.
"He's a very funny man away from football and easy to get on with.
"The criticism directed at him in recent times is totally unjustified."
Now he's reached the rugby pinnacle the next chore is sorting out his Super 14 Waratah commitments and availability for club side Norths.
"My club coach Darren Coleman has had a talk and is fairly flexible," he said.
"With all the discussions taking place about the future of the club competition and grass roots rugby I feel it's really important we play that level if the schedule permits."
Ironically, his likely stand in at the Shoremen is former Port Macquarie Shark and Group 2 'Rising Star' Jordan Macey who's jumped codes from Manly Sea Eagles.
"Must confess I don't know much about Jordan other than being told he has great talent," Norton-Knight acknowledged.
"I will keep a close eye on his progress."
The Wallabies' new signing gets his chance to meet the locals tomorrow at Coffs Coast International Stadium where the injured Wallaby Matt Giteau will make a special appearance to sign autographs.
The full squad will hold a training session between 10.30am and 12 noon which is open to the public.