Growing up, Matt Allwood never would have predicted that he would be playing in front of his home town for the Raiders, but if things go to plan for the talented 21 year old, an impressive performance against the Knights in Tamworth may see him accomplish his ultimate goal – his NRL debut.
Allwood grew up in Tamworth and attended the renowned rugby league nursery of Farrer Agricultural School like club stalwarts Tom Learoyd-Lahrs and Alan Tongue did before him.
He came down to the Raiders in 2011 upon graduating from Farrer and proved to be one of the club’s best in his two years in the the National Youth Competition.
Having finished in the NYC, Allwood progressed through to the NRL squad and spent 2013 playing in the NSW Cup with Mounties.
Now, Allwood has a prime opportunity to accomplish his dream of playing in the NRL through a combination of his own eye-catching development and Jack Wighton’s aim to play to play in the halves in 2014.
To achieve his dream, Allwood must replicate the same stellar form he exuded on the ground he played on as a prodigiously talented youngster, however this time it will be against seasoned NRL players.
“Growing up I never thought that I’d be playing in front of my home town for an NRL side,” Allwood said. “I’ve played there (Scully Park, Tamworth) a few times before and it’s funny how it has all worked out.
“I loved my time at Farrer and I’ve got a couple of mates that are coming along to watch the trial on the weekend. I can’t wait to get out there.”
The supremely talented centre knows that he is well in contention to force his way into the Raiders NRL line-up this year and that a strong performance at his old stomping ground against Newcastle’s quality centres could all but guarantee that.
“I’m looking forward to putting in a big performance this weekend because the left centre spot is up for grabs if Jack plays in the halves this year,” Allwood said. “I know that there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me though because of all the talented outside backs at the club but I’m up for the challenge.
“Last year was really good playing for Mounties, I really enjoyed it. It was a good learning curve for me playing against men on a week-to-week basis and it really toughened me up.
“I got a lot of confidence out of last year too. Seeing the big names that get dropped back to reserve grade and playing well against them gives you the confidence that you can make the next step.
“It’s been a pretty hard pre-season but it’s all paying off a now. I feel really fit and can’t wait for the start of the year. It’s my goal to make my NRL debut this season and I’m going to work as hard as I can to hopefully get there.”
Allwood is considered quiet by nature but his actions have spoken loudly during the pre-season and during the trials. Captain Terry Campese has been particularly impressed with the NSW Under 18s representative’s talent, work ethic and professionalism.
“He’s got all the attributes to be a quality centre in the NRL,” Campese said. “He’s got a lot of pace, an ability to break the line and he’s also very strong in defence, he really likes to rush up and whack blokes.
“He’s quiet kid, who has been in the system for a few years now and was unlucky I thought not to have made his debut last year. Hopefully 2014 is his year because he has been working very hard in the pre-season and played quite well in the trial against the Storm.
“I’m looking forward to see how he goes this Saturday against the Knights in front of his home town.”