NEW HOME: Bulldogs winger Kerrod Holland, centre, celebrates after scoring a try against the North Queensland Cowboys in round 10 at ANZ Stadium. Picture: Getty ImagesJUST like former Knights teammate Nathan Ross, Bulldogs winger Kerrod Holland knows the enjoyment that comes with beating the odds to carve out an NRL career from bush football.
Holland will come up against Ross and his boyhood team, the Knights, for the first time when Newcastle travel to Belmore Sports Ground on Sunday.
Ross and Holland, who played NSW Cup in the Knights’ premiership-winning 2015 campaign, rose to attention in Newcastle Rugby League and not through an NRL junior system. And both have recently extended their NRL contracts until at least the end of 2020.
Kerrod Holland’s long road to NRL success TweetFacebook Kerrod HollandGetty Images and Fairfax Media photosRoss, 28, played with Lakes and Kurri before getting his shot, while Holland, 24, turned his back on the Knights juniors to complete his electrical apprenticeship. He started senior football with his home club, Singleton, before joining Cessnock and catching the eye of then-NSW Cup coach Matt Lantry.
Holland worked almost seven years as an electrician while chasing his NRL dream, and the goal-kicking winger wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It was a bit different and it was good for me, going from working and playing football, and playing against men for such a long time, it’s helped me a lot transitioning into the NRL,” Holland said. “Back playing at Cessnock, and against guys like Nathan Ross –and we all know his story.Just the journey that you can take to get there, and if you are persistent and you work hard, you can accomplish these things.
“If you don’t take the natural route, whenyou take the longer route, to get to where you want, I think it makes it more enjoyable and you get more satisfaction out of it because you know what’s on the other side of football and the hardships to get there.”
Despite the new deal, Holland has had hardships this year. He dislocated his shoulder and tore ligaments in round two and missed five games. He was then droppedbefore returning to the starting side for last week’s 21-14 loss to the Warriors.
Holland scored a try in what coach Des Hasler said was one of his best performances. He now wants to strengthen his position in the side on Sunday against the club he supported most of his life.
“I was injured earlier this year when we played up there, and I was just a week off returning,” Holland said of playing the Knights.
“It would have been nice to play in my home town.Last year I didn’t get a crack either, so this will be my first time against the blue and white …sorry, the blue and red,” he laughed.
“I’ve been really looking forward to it.Obviously I know a lot of blokes who are playing there. It’s my home town and the team I supported for my whole life really, up until the last couple of years.”
Holland said he “was the only Knights supporter at home growing up” but now the whole family cheers for the Bulldogs.
“My Dad was a Broncos supporter and he converted my brother but not me,” he said.
“I have the family come down and support me at games when they can.
“Even when we play the Broncos, my Dad and brother’s favourite team, they come down and support me and the Dogs.”
Holland said he had some interestfrom other clubs, not including the Knights, when negotiating a new contract this year but he was keen to repay the Bulldogs’faith.
He had no regrets about leaving Newcastle for Canterbury.
“The Dogs offered me fulltime and the Knights weren’t, so it was a no-brainer,” he said.
“The Dogs gave me every chance to play first grade, whereas looking back, I probably would have had an opportunity with Newcastle with all the injuries and things they’ve had the past two seasons.
“But the Dogs gave me the best opportunity so I decided to come down and get out of my comfort zone and really concentrate on playing first grade football.”
He admitted, though, it had taken some time to adjust tobig city life.
“The traffic is something you have to get used to,” he laughed.
“Just the hustle and bustle of Sydney is different for a small town country boy who’s used to knowingeveryone.
“It’s not too bad,although it was a reality check from wide open spaces and big houses to living in a little two-bedroom apartment.
“I live over in Caringbah with my partner, Emily, and there’s probably five or six of us here from the Dogs living near the beach, and it sort of reminds me of Newcastle a lot. Nice beaches and nice cafes.”