Newton's law is never give up
It's been 2,576 days since Clint Newton last pulled on a Knights jersey, but the returning forward says he never gave up hope of donning the famous red and blue again despite sustaining what could have been a career-ending injury earlier this year.
Seven years since his 100th game for the club, a 71-6 thrashing from the Broncos that still ranks as the club's worst ever loss, the South Newcastle junior capped a remarkable return for the Knights in their 29-12 loss to the Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
Just four months ago Newton feared he may never play first grade again when he ruptured his bicep in a pre-season trial match for the Knights NSW Cup side. Given a worst-case scenario that would require season-ending surgery and months of rehabilitation, Newton said he never contemplated giving the game away despite the fact he turns 33 next Wednesday, and instead returned to first grade in the same colours he debuted in some 13 years ago.
"No, retirement never crossed my mind at all," Newton told NRL.com after making 19 tackles off the bench in his first top-flight game since Round 26 last year.
"From the moment I was injured I just wanted to try and get back and just contribute to the club as quick as I could.
"And that's what I did. I never had any thoughts about retirement. While ever you've got the hunger and the passion then why not keep trying?"
That hunger and passion has driven Newton plenty over the years, initially to Melbourne in 2007 when he told by then-Newcastle coach Brian Smith that he was not a 'must-keep' player, where he formed an integral part of their second premiership win, though the Storm's victory was later stricken from the NRL record for salary cap rorting.
Four years with Hull Kingston Rovers in English Super League, two with the Panthers and a run at the 2013 World Cup as skipper of the USA Tomahawks followed, before a chance to come full circle and finish his career where it all began came in the form of a call from Wayne Bennett.
"I always had aspirations about hopefully coming back, and to get the opportunity to come back – I'm very grateful for the chance and the faith shown by Wayne and I'm enjoying it here.
"Wayne wanted me to make sure that I put some pressure on the boys in the top squad, and also helping the young guys coming through and keeping them on track with their professionalism and their training, and I'm enjoying that role.
"I take great pride in working with any of the young blokes. Joey Tapine's is a real good young talent and Korbin (Sims) and those sorts of blokes, so anytime I can work with those guys I'm happy to and it gives me something different to think about and work on as well."
Keeping the Knights' youth brigade, or any player for that matter, focused this year has been a case of easier said than done, with distractions aplenty in the form of Alex McKinnon's tragic career-ending injury and the controversial ownership disputes that have dogged the club throughout 2014.
With the NRL announcing just hours before the clash with the Roosters that it had taken ownership of the club, putting an end to Nathan Tinkler's three-year association with the Knights, Newton refused to blame the ongoing saga for the team's poor run in 2014, though was hopeful of a turn-around in form with the club's newfound off-field stability.
"It's something that we've never been worried about too much.
"We've always been kept in the loop so the players have just got to worry about playing and the administration can worry about the other stuff.
"Maybe it was there [affecting on-field performances], but there's not much you can do, you just have to focus on your performance.
"Now that it has been resolved it's one less thing to worry about, we've now just got to worry about playing footy.
"We're putting the effort in, and we're getting closer, so hopefully the results will come soon."