Dragons or bust for Red V's milestone man
As he approaches his 200th NRL game for St George Illawarra this weekend, winger Jason Nightingale says he wouldn't have dreamed of achieving the milestone at any other club.
A local Renown United junior Nightingale rejected a big-money offer from the Warriors midway through last year to remain at the Dragons, something which is sure to hit home as he leads the club out on to the Sydney Cricket Ground this Sunday.
"You get to the point where St George has always been the place where I've grown up ever since moving to Sydney. I've spent a lot of time in the area as a junior of the club. It's a club that means a lot to me and it's famous in its own right," Nightingale said.
"Barring the last time I came off-contract it's been easy, the negotiations. It gets a bit harder as you get older but I knew I wanted to stay and they were more than happy for me to continue on.
"The draw of being a one-club player and one you're a junior of, and having that opportunity to stay, the decision was a no-brainer."
In a career that has seen him win the 2010 premiership and play 27 times for New Zealand since his debut a decade ago Nightingale put his longevity down to one thing.
"In one word, it would be consistency," he said.
"Obviously you need to enjoy it to be consistent, and I've always enjoyed my footy. 10 years on, well... 20 years on since I first played footy, to be able to enjoy it that's what really helps.
"Remaining focused and staying in that competitive spirit definitely helps as well."
Nightingale's teammate Tyson Frizell also spoke of the 29-year-old's double century as special occasion for the squad.
"It's great for not only us players. I'm a close friend of Jason. He would've been happy to play one game let alone 200. I don't think anyone in their career thinks they're going to get that far but it's a great milestone for him," Frizell said.
"He's done a lot in the game. You'll know he'll do his job. He'll take those high balls and clean up the scraps. As a fan you wouldn't understand but all the little things that need to be done off the field he does, which nobody sees.
"He's been around long enough now to know how he needs to prepare before big games, he's massively professional in the way he handles himself."
With the Dragons playing host to South Sydney in their annual historic clash at the SCG, the stars have aligned for Nightingale's latest achievement.
The Red V this weekend will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dragons' 1966 premiership victory – the last of their record 11-straight premiership wins.
"It's not a bad place to bring it up. It's very exciting for me and I'm really looking forward to celebrating at the SCG and having my friends and family about," Nightingale said.
"At times like these you tend to reflect back on achievements of the past and definitely our club has been up there as well.
"The 11 consecutive premierships is something that'll never be done again, it's thoroughly engrained in our history and you do draw motivation from it."