Newcastle has always been home. I had no intention of moving away from “home”.

I still remember being that 10-year-old kid from Sydney, feeling nervous about the big family move to Newcastle.

Soon after we arrived, life became very settled.

My family signed me up to rugby league, joining me up to local club, Souths Newcastle Lions. I played U10s with the Lions right up until U17s, before my graduation into the Newcastle Knights’ U20s system.

I managed to make a sizeable impact with their emerging feeder squad, but form and injuries saw me sent back to play in the local First Grade competition, which despite the regulation is a very strong competition.

So I was 18, playing local First Grade and really had no other choice but to harden up a bit as I did my best to work myself back into the 20s side again.

I managed to play a couple of games at the back end of my inaugural 20s season, and then I went into the following year with a pretty strong side.

I wish I could tell you the stat, but around 13 of us (from our first team of 18), have played NRL football now.

Lachlan Fitzgibbon exclusive insight 5

From there, it’s actually pretty funny, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do; I was thinking about going overseas with a couple of mates and play college rugby in America.

I was tossing up about going over there, until the Newcastle Knights coach at the time Rick Stone asked me if I wanted to do a pre-season.

And it’s a funny thing actually, as much as I love footy and as much as I’ve played at the highest level, I still wanted to go over to America at the time. But I knew I couldn’t not explore a life in the NRL.

The challenging thing was I wasn’t a superstar by any means; nothing was guaranteed and I thought the amount of people that actually play NRL footy is so minimal that I’d potentially miss out on an opportunity going overseas with my mates or what not.

So it was a pretty big decision I made, and as it was I stayed to have a crack, and throughout the summer it was no clearer as to whether I was good enough.

It was only up until Christmas actually, just before we broke for Christmas, I asked Stoney, ‘Mate am I staying on?’

I was pretty eager at the time; I’d done the few months of training and he said ‘yes’.

It was like an early Christmas present.

It was in round 21 of the 2015 season, Stoney had been stood down and Danny Buderus took over as coach; that was only for about five games at the back end of the year.

I remember he called me one night, I was actually out with a couple of mates, having a couple of beers, and he said I was going to debut and I just couldn’t believe it.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 27: Lachlan Fitzgibbon of the Knights celebrates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights at 1300SMILES Stadium on July 27, 2018 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 27: Lachlan Fitzgibbon of the Knights celebrates after scoring a try during the round 20 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Newcastle Knights at 1300SMILES Stadium on July 27, 2018 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

So sticking around proved to me worth it, and so I suppose everything happens for a reason.

My second season in the NRL, I still wasn’t sure where it was really heading until probably mid last year.

It takes a few games to really recognise yourself as being up to that level and then getting the confidence to play some good consistent footy.

I think that’s the hard thing growing up in Newcastle and living with boys who aren’t you know in the professional scene, it’s difficult.

You see what they’re doing and wanting to be with them a lot of the time, but then on the other hand you’ve got professional footy, which is every kids dream.

For me, it was a tough orchestrating that balance, but obviously its paid dividends now and I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

All my family is from up this way, and all my closest mates are from up this way; there is no better place to play footy than Newcastle.

I think being a local lad, and with family here, it definitely helps.

Lachlan Fitzgibbon exclusive insight 5

When Stoney first came in he gave me probably the belief that I could play in the top level and then when Bedsy (Danny Buderus) took over he really had to reinstate that confidence in me to play.

He’d he sit me down a few times and was telling me what I need to do to become a regular first grade footy player, Browny then took over as coach and it was another voice to the mix. Browny and I had a few honest chats, which helped instil a lot of confidence in my ability.

I had three coaches in the space of 6 months to a year, which is a bit unheard of.

For me, it came down to one simple belief. I just want to be the player everyone wants to play with; I like to carry that into not only playing footy but on the training paddock and off the field.

I’m a pretty happy, go lucky sort of bloke, and an approachable person who enjoys a good laugh. But then again on the field, when it gets tough you know when to knuckle down and it’s not about having fun really it’s about winning sometimes.

I like to think I’m a good balance of both, knowing when to knuckle down and have fun.

Lachlan Fitzgibbon exclusive insight 5

Our fans, and supporters have stuck by us, and now it’s time to give them something to cheer for. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

I can’t speak for other people, but when we lose bad I feel for not only us, but more so our loyal fan base.

Even during that difficult period a couple of seasons back, we were still averaging around 15,000 at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Newcastle has a rich culture and they’ve always be known as a club that stands behind it’s players.

I’ve been with the club 6 years, that hasn’t changed, you know they’re loyal as long as you’re putting in work.

They understand what the club is going through at the moment and how we’re going to get through it and I think it’s even more special to them if they’ve stuck with the club and realise what they’ve been through and when we are successful and when we do bring a premiership or play Finals footy, they feel apart of that. ….  And they feel every emotion that we feel!

That’s a credit to them showing up over 20,000 most home games this year and then even on the road they come down in numbers.

Lachlan Fitzgibbon exclusive insight 5

It’s a big community family, the supporter base is an extended family of the community and we like to get out as much as we can to try and be out and around the community.

There is a different aura around the town when you’re winning, you know everyone is buzzing when how the football team is going well and conversely when it’s not.

You only have to go back to the ‘01 Grand Final, and I think everyone in Newcastle had the day off and they were all on the streets of Newcastle as well as the stadium every home game.

Even boys coming up to Newcastle from other clubs say, ‘I can’t believe the fan base”, like they’ve come from clubs where they’ve won premierships and where they’ve been successful for so long and then they look at the Knights supporter base and they go “What the hell, like honestly I think this is literally the best in the NRL”.

Which I believe is true.

When we do bring success, whether it be in two years, three years, they’ll feel apart of that, they’ve been through the hard times and winning is better when you’ve been losing for a long time.

I’m sure when we do become successful and a powerhouse NRL side it’s going to feel better than the sides that have been up there for a long while.