Knights take Heritage Round literally
Breaking a six-game losing streak and scoring only their second win since Round 5, the Newcastle Knights' 30-2 demolition of the Titans couldn't have been more apt in the NRL's Men of League Heritage Round.
Coach Rick Stone tipped his hat to the round "bound by history" by naming veterans Clint Newton, David Fa'alogo and Chris Houston in the side at the expense of young guns Paterika Vaivai and Joey Tapine, and it wasn't the only occurrence that would've made the hardest of Knights fans smile.
Whether it was captain Kurt Gidley turning back the clock by jumping over the much younger Josh Hoffman to score his side's first try of the match, Fa'alogo topping the game's metre count or the fact Jarrod Mullen was finally back from injury in front of his home crowd – everything seemed to click for the Knights.
Meanwhile Newton managed to break the line, fellow veteran Beau Scott played the second half in the centres and prop Kade Snowden produced a flick pass now-Knights CEO Matt Gidley would be proud of.
After having one hand on the wooden spoon following their 14-point loss to the Raiders in Round 18, the Knights bounced back in a way their inaugural team of 1988 would have been pleased with, according to lifelong fan and local Souths junior Newton.
"It's certainly one of those things when you look at the jersey that we wore [against the Titans], to see your number and name on a jersey full of a lot of my childhood idols, I'm amazed," Newton told NRL.com of the club's heritage jumper boasting the names of all 260 past and present Knights.
"I still remember walking into the sheds with my dad when I was seven when we started supporting the Knights in their first year. We used to come in and the players who sat around the sheds – in the far, far less fancier sheds to now – were warriors.
"You'd walk in and see they were chippies, sons of coalminers and just very hard-nosed blokes and they put in out on the field. That was what this club was built on and while I'm still here I'll certainly try to instil that in the players who are going to hopefully carry the torch from here on in."
The Knights went into the game knowing they had lost 11 of their past 12 games, and Newton said a mixture of relief and excitement filled the sheds following their 28-point win.
Even though it was only Newton's third first-grade game of the season, the club's NSW Cup captain said even he was hurting for his teammates despite watching on from the grandstand for the most part.
"It was just the fact after a number of weeks we haven't been playing our best footy, and whilst I haven't been playing first grade consistently it had been certainly hard to watch because a lot of these guys are some of my closest friends," Newton said.
"On the back of that you have the fans to consider and they're right up there with people you want to try and make proud, along with the family and the town. It was just good to see the fans brave conditions and come away happy with our solid win. It was certainly pleasing and very rewarding for those who turned up."
Having found out at the captain's run he'd be playing in Heritage Round, Newton was happy to draw upon his veteran instincts to prepare for the Titans.
"Fortunately enough, after a number of years it becomes easier for blokes like me to slot in," he said. "I know what my job is and I certainly appreciate the coaching staff having faith in me to get the job done."