Lachlan Fitzgibbon has been waiting more than five years to repay Knights GM of football Danny Buderus by helping to return the club to the NRL finals for the first time since 2013.
Fitzgibbon spent his childhood cheering Buderus, Andrew Johns and the Knights from the hill at their home ground in New Lambton and was handed his NRL debut by the former Newcastle and NSW captain in 2015.
His memories of the Knights involve regular finals appearances and visiting the dressing rooms with his father Mark, the CEO of long-time Newcastle sponsor NIB, to meet the likes of Buderus.
"The sheds back in the old days looked a bit different to now but they still had the same vibe, with just a few more cans of beer," Fitzgibbon recalled.
Some might say the Knights players had more to celebrate in those days as Sunday's sudden-death clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium is Newcastle's first finals appearance since Buderus helped lead them to within one win of the 2013 grand final in his final match.
Of the current Newcastle line-up, only Mitchell Pearce, David Klemmer, Aidan Guerra, Kalyn Ponga, Kurt Mann and Edrick Lee have finals experience and all played for other clubs.
Rabbitohs v Knights - Elimination final
"We have had three consecutive wooden spoons and some pretty tough years too," Fitzgibbon said on the eve of his first finals match.
"This club has got such a rich and proud history of being a steely blue-collared town who play their footy tough but since 2013, when Bedsy retired, we have probably lost that identity and we went through some pretty thin periods."
Buderus had a stint as caretaker coach for six matches between the departure of Rick Stone in 2015 and the arrival of Nathan Brown the following season.
In his first game in charge of the Knights, Buderus gave Fitzgibbon his debut against St George Illawarra and the 26-year-old has been a regular member of the Newcastle forward pack ever since.
"It was a childhood dream to play for the Knights one day and be a part of it," Fitzgibbon said. "I was obsessed with footy as a young fellow and from about the age of 10 onwards I used to go to most home games and sit up on the hill with my old man.
"He is a Cessnock boy and a mad Knights supporter so he bought me up to be one too."
Since then Buderus has remained involved with the Knights and Fitzgibbon said he was still inspiring players in his role as GM of football.
"He has got an aura about him and you just want to win for people like Bedsy," Fitzgibbon said. "Not only he is an Old Boy but he works at the club and you see him day in and day out.
"He sits in our video sessions – our reviews and our previews – and he doesn't have much to say but when he does everyone listens.
"When you win you not only feel like you are doing the club proud but you feel like you are doing Old Boys like Bedsy proud, which is a special feeling."