Newton's Gift to Newcastle
Veteran warhorse Clint Newton is Newcastle's version of the Never Ending Story.
As captain of the Knights' NSW Cup team the retiring back-rower's career has been favoured to end for the past three weeks after his team limped into the finals in seventh place, but Newton and Newcastle have defied the odds time and time again and are now 80 minutes away from being dubbed premiers.
After convincing victories against the Sea Eagles, reigning premiers Penrith and minor premiers Mounties to reach Sunday's NSW Cup Grand Final, only Wyong stand in Newcastle's way of a fairytale finish.
A premiership win to Newton would mean the world to him, mainly because his return to Newcastle in 2014 came with a chance to give back to his beloved club.
"[Winning] would be right up there in a separate category to winning an NRL premiership. That's realistically how much it means to me because of why I was bought back to Newcastle," Newton told NRL.com
"I have often been told by Jack Gibson and Ron Massey – who were close to my father – that Arthur Beetson went back and played reserve grade and did some good things there to help the next generation come through.
"By no means am I putting myself in Arthur's category but it is more about the impact you can have on the younger players and that's incredibly important.
"By helping them, supporting them and making them understand what encapsulates being an NRL player and what then your role is then in society, I certainly think it makes the sport a better game."
While Newton may have seen out the final two months of Newcastle's NRL season, he never shied away from his responsibilities as captain of the reserve grade team.
Much like Newton, young stars Jake Mamo, Joe Tapine, Danny Levi and Sam Mataora shared their time between the NRL and reserve grade this season while others like halfback Jaelen Feeney and rookie forwards Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Jacob Saifiti, Josh King and Michael Steele continued to make names for themselves.
It's the rookies though which make Newton's responsibility so much easier to manage as he fights to keep his aging body motivated.
"This was always the team I predominantly focused on for the last two years. I have a great affiliation with a lot of the young guys and while people say I've given a lot back to the club, they have probably given me more than what I could give them," Newton said.
"At 34 sometimes training is a little bit tough and you don't feel like doing it at times. But when I know I have such a great playing group and guys to be around; who are so enthusiastic and willing to listen, learn and respectful it makes me want to get up, get there and be a part of it.
"That's why I can't thank them enough. They make me excited about the future of the club. Personally it's a really satisfying way to go out, to play with the next crop of champions hopefully."
Now standing in Newton's way from a National Championship swansong are the Roos, who won't be easy to beat.
Wyong, going from wooden spooners to grand finalists in the space of three seasons with the backing of the Sydney Roosters, are favourites according to Newton.
"Wyong's strength this year has been with the Roosters hardly having any injuries – meaning they have been able to keep that continuity in your team unlike us where we've had players jumping all over the place as recent as the weekend," Newton said.
"They're obviously favourites. We understand that and we accept it but it's a two-horse race at the end of the day."
The NSWRL Grand Final day, held at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday, September 27, is the biggest day on the VB NSW Cup, Ron Massey Cup and Sydney Shield calendars and the only live rugby league in Sydney that weekend – and adult tickets are just $10, with kids under 12 free! With face painting, live music and a carnival-like atmosphere, it’s the perfect day out for young and old.Get your tickets here.