Loyalty a two-way street for Nightingale and Dragons
Jason Nightingale never wanted to leave St George Illawarra so he'll be forever grateful to the Dragons for allowing him to reach his 250-match milestone as a one-club player.
On several occasions when Nightingale had been off contract there had been temptation to venture elsewhere, but he couldn’t see himself wearing anything other than the Red V. And neither could the club.
The club junior and 2010 premiership winner will return to where it all began at Jubilee Oval to celebrate his milestone when the Dragons host the Rabbitohs on Friday night.
It was just over a decade ago when Nightingale ran out onto the field at Kogarah for his first time, making his debut against the Panthers in round eight of the 2007 season.
On home soil for another big occasion, "Gypsy" has been honoured for his achievement with his signature embroidered onto his treasured No.5 jersey that has seen him through a tremendous career.
"To be able to play 250 top-grade games for this great club is something I never thought I'd be able to achieve and something I feel very grateful to be able to have achieved," he said.
"My affiliation with this club is something that’s helped me a good stead and has been a big part of the player I am today.
"When you are at a club for a long time you get that affiliation and you feel part of the place and it's pretty hard to want to leave."
The quiet achiever has represented the New Zealand Kiwis since 2008 which has made him a hot commodity among various NRL clubs, with the New Zealand Warriors and Cronulla Sharks putting offers on the table over the years.
"When you come off contract you have to look at your options, but I suppose number one, I never wanted to leave and number two, the club's always been great in negotiation, they've always come to the table," Nightingale said.
"It means a lot to be a part of this club for so long and the people that have been here with me since day one and players that have come and gone have really made this place very special for myself and have helped that decision along the way.
"Every time I am off contract my number one goal is to stay here and play for the Dragons. It's been a pretty easy deal to be done, multiple times."
Coming up against the Bunnies is significant for a few reasons.
"My 150th game was against Souths and my 200th was against Souths and this will be another great occasion against the Rabbitohs and I'm very privileged to be able to play here at Kogarah," Nightingale said.
Paul McGregor described the last four years of coaching Nightingale as "an honour" and "a blessing".
"It's an outstanding achievement when you look at Jason's career. He's scored over 100 tries, he's won a premiership, 250 games and 30 Tests I think he's one of four that have done that," McGregor said.
"An outstanding achievement from a very good person. He's got a strong character. Every time he takes the field, he's never beaten."