For every young player, the approach to pre-season is the same.

Regardless of their background, hype or expectations, their approach to those first few days in early November carries with it the same mentality and motivations.

Prove to your coaches and new teammates that you belong.

Prove to yourself that you can crack it in the NRL.

Prove to everyone that you’re here for the long-term.

How that motivation manifests itself in the day-to-day is different, but at the heart of it, is the same. It’s the reason why teenagers move away from their home towns, drag themselves up at 5:00am for training, push themselves to their limits in the gym and commit to discipline off the field — just to do it all over again the next day.

Sam McIntyre is no different to any youngster in that regard.

Born and raised in Port Macquarie, the talented Newcastle Knights junior made the tough move down to Sydney 12 months ago — leaving family and friends behind — to try and chase an NRL dream. There were no guarantees of an immediate NRL debut (in fact, being on a Development Squad contract meant the exact opposite) but it was a move he felt compelled to make.

“Without doubt, it’s been the best move of my footy career,” he reflected, 12 months on from his trip down the M1 Motorway from Newcastle to Concord.

“I’ve just learned so much and I’m just so happy where I am right now. “I knew I couldn’t play NRL at all last year so it just allowed me to train as best as I could and do everything I could to better myself and get ready for a big year."

Having progressed quickly from the club’s Jersey Flegg side through to the Intrust Super Premiership competition, the end of the 2018 season brought with it a close to one chapter in McIntyre’s career and the start of a new one — now eligible for first-grade selection with the chance to really turn some heads at the start of 2019.

While trying to focus on the eight weeks between seasons and getting himself in perfect physical shape to resume pre-season training, McIntyre was wrestling with grief, heartbreak and an array of emotions that few on the outside could see.

The loss of his best friend — who was tragically found dead on board a superyacht in the Greek islands — had broken the final week of the season, leaving the young man to work through the sorrow over what was supposed to be his time off.