HE has grown up in a famous rugby league heartland, but Blake Archbold has only ever had eyes for one code, and one team.
The 19-year-old right back from Cessnock lived out a childhood dream last Friday when he made his A-League debut for the Newcastle Jets in their 2-1 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers at McDonald Jones Stadium.
While most of his mates aspired to emulate Cessnock-bred Knights legends Andrew and Matthew Johns and Billy Peden, the whippet-like Archbold followed an alternative career path.
"I don't know where I got it from," he said.
"But I just stick with the round ball. I think I've found the right sport."
His career kicked off with Cessnock United (formerly St Joseph's), and after being promoted to the Hunter Valley Hawks under-11 representative side, he attracted the attention of Jets' talent scouts.
Watching Newcastle win the 2007-08 grand final in his lounge room only reinforced his desire to represent the Hunter Region's A-League flagship.
The 17 minutes he received off the bench against Wanderers has whet his appetite for more.
"It was such an unreal feeling, something I've dreamt of from a young age, coming though the Academy from under-11s, -12s and youth team," he said.
"Getting an opportunity in the first team was just unreal ... the intensity just rises as you go up."
Senior pros like Nigel Boogaard, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Roy O'Donovan and Jason Hoffman have been the perfect role models for him on the training pitch.
"It's a lot of hard work and effort," he said.
He was "pretty happy" with how he handled himself on the big stage.
"I got a few early touches, which was good," he said. "Got myself into the game.
"I like to get forward and get back, so there was a lot of running, but hopefully I can more minutes in our next few games."
As Jets officials weigh up a long-term coaching appointment, Archbold will be quite content if they hand the job to caretaker Craig Deans, who has nurtured him throughout his formative years.
"I've known Deansy and Macca [assistant coach Daniel McBreen] for five or six years, so we're really close," he said.
"I really have lot of time for them, and I really enjoy getting coached by them."
Meanwhile, the Jets W-League team will play Brisbane on Sunday, not Canberra as originally scheduled.