Newcastle Knights: ’97 premiership heroes a pointer to proud history

DYNAMIC DUO: Captain Paul Harragon and coach Mal Reilly embrace at full-time of the Knights 1997 premiership victory. Picture: Tim Clayton“DOWN the blind goes Andrew Johns. Inside to Albert. Albert will score. Albert will score. Newcastle have won the grand final … No doubts they’re dancing in the streets of Newcastle right now.”

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Dance they did, Rabs.

The Knights’ miraclelast-second win over Manly in the 1997 grand-final–and the aftermath–is embedded in the hearts and minds of Novocastrians.

Darren Albert, arms raised to the heavens,about to be swamped by teammates,Paul“Chief” Harragon leaping for joy, arms spread like apterodactyl,Chief’semotional embrace with coach Mal Reilly, the street parade,Joey,shirtless,skating down KingStreet …iconic images that have becomepart of Newcastle folklore.

It has been 20 years since theChief hoisted the Optus Cupabove his head.

The ’97heroes will be presented to the crowd as part of old boy’s day for the clash against Cronulla at home on Sunday.

It isa history thatcoach Nathan Brown wants his young tyros to embrace.

In the 17-man squad named to take on the Sharks,eight players were aged three or under when the Knights secured their first title.Halfback Jack Cogger and bench forward Sam Stonewere just eight-weeks old.

“We have really worked hard with this young group of players to make them realisewhat the club was built on back in AllanMcMahon’s days and through when Mal Reilly (1997)won and Hages (2001) won,” Brown said.“That was what the foundations of the club were built on.There would be players who played in the ‘97 grand final that some of our players wouldn’t know. There are a number of players like Paul Harragon, Tony Butterfield and the likes who ourplayers certainly do know and what they did for the club”

Josh King explains significance of @NRLKnights old boy’s day. @newcastleheraldpic.twitter苏州美甲学校/CLlbfwM4JQ

— James Gardiner (@JamesGardiner42) August 30, 2017

Brown has leaned onHarragonand Butterfield, along with the likes of fellow legends Matt Johns,Mark Hughes, Mark Sargent and Dany Buderus to address the players at various stages. Another great will present the players with their jerseys on Sunday.

“The more the younger players get to know the guys who helped build the club, the better for our future,” Brown said.

Home-grown prop Josh King was not yet two when the Knights upset the Sea Eagles on that famous day, September 28, 1997.

“I think every Novocastrian has watched the highlights of the ’97 grand final,” he said“You get goose bumps just watching it.Growing up, people like Chiefand Steve Simpson, theywere the players you tried to model your game on.”

All of the ’97 side, bar hooker Lee Jackson and coach Reilly, who live in England, will be at old boys day.

“The biggest motivator is that they are all going to be coming to the game and watching us,” King said.“You don’t want to let them down.The 97 grand final was such a big thing for the town. It bought the town together so much.We want to do them proud and the town proud.”

Shaun Kenny-Dowall, although only a recent arrival in the Hunter, is aware of the significance of old boys and the impact the inaugural premiership had.

“It is a huge day for Newcastle,” he said.“I think a big reason why Newcastle is a proud rugby league town is the memories that the ’97 team instilled in this city. It will be a great day, not only for the oldboys but the whole of Newcastle.Any time we play at home ona Sunday arvo is always a big occasion. This one has a bit of extra significance.To have those legends around the change room and on the field when we walk out–it will be a big day and I know the boys are excited.”

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