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Loss tempered by McKinnon's presence

Loss tempered by McKinnon's presence
Centre Dane Gagai ran for 178 metres in a brave Knights effort that fell just short against the Bulldogs on Saturday night Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos
Stop for a second and think of what you were doing at age 16. Behaving yourself, steering well clear of the opposite sex and certainly not wearing a puka shell necklace.

"Mum was still cuddling me at 16 mate," grins Knights prop Kade Snowden when you put the question to him.

But for Snowden's grandfather Bryant, 16 was the age he stole his brother's birth certificate, enlisted in the Australian army and went off to fight in the Korean War, honouring his father who was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II.

Snowden's great grandfather was stationed in Nagasaki on the city's most horrific day, August 9, 1945, when the US dropped a nuclear bomb that killed more than 60,000, three days after a suspected 150,000 lost their lives in a similar attack in Hiroshima. 

He survived the blast, and Bryant later stole away to follow his father into battle and saw action just a few months after his 16th birthday before being found out and sent home.

"Pop served in Korea, he had to steal his older brother's birth certificate so he could go because he was only 16," says Snowden, barrel-chest swelling with pride as he does so.

"They didn't know about it, so off he went.

"It was a really courageous thing to just to go to the Army, and at 16 is something you can't really contemplate in this day and age."

It's an incredible story and one Snowden is all too happy to draw on for some added motivation as the NRL joins the nation in Anzac commemorations this weekend.

"That was really special listening to the Last Post today," Snowden said. "I love it every time I hear it.

"It gives me tingles and to hear it before a game it really gets you going, and I definitely had Pop in mind before the game.

"It's a special day for both me and my family, we're all very proud of that history and it really is close to my heart."

There was no shortage of heart about the Knights' performance without veteran forwards Willie Mason and Jeremy Smith, with Snowden leading from the front as their big men went toe-to-toe with the formidable Bulldogs pack.

While the Novocastrians were pipped in the last 10 minutes by a side that have made late wins an art form of late, Snowden said the presence of injured forward Alex McKinnon in the sheds before the game made the loss easier to stomach.

"To see 'Macca' today, that puts [the loss] into perspective straight away," says Snowden. 

"He's the strongest bloke I've ever met, and to see him really making the most of everything and smiling is incredible.

"It was a massive surprise to see him here, no one knew he was coming, and he's the only motivation you need."

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