IF Clint Newton had any self-doubt about bouncing back from injury at this belated point in his rugby league career, he does not need to go searching for inspiration.
The torn biceps he suffered in a pre-season trial nine months ago, and the micro-fracture surgery he had two weeks ago to repair a chronic knee injury, have been painful, untimely setbacks that would have tested the resolve of any player, let alone one turning 34 next year.
But compared to the life-threatening trauma his father, former golf champion Jack Newton, experienced after being hit by an aeroplane propeller 30 years ago, Clint realises the pain barrier is a relative concept.
Quitting is an option the veteran Knights back-rower will simply not consider.
‘‘I don’t have to look too far to realise I’m lucky to be doing what I’m doing, considering obviously dad’s career got cut short very early in the piece,’’ Newton told the Newcastle Herald.
‘‘I think injuries are mostly a mindset, unless of course it’s in an accident like my father had.
‘‘You’ve got a choice to make. Do you want to push through it and do the rehab?
‘‘In my father’s case, he could have sat back and asked ‘Why me?’ for the rest of his life, but he just got on with life and contributing to society and carried on being a good father to myself and my sister.
‘‘So for me, it’s a pretty easy choice. And I don’t know how much sympathy I’d have gotten from my dad, anyway.’’
That Newton is unwilling to blow full-time on his career should be no great surprise.
From the outset, everything he has achieved in rugby league had been through hard work and commitment. He freely admits he was far from the most talented teenager in a remarkable Valentine-Eleebana team that also produced Luke Burt, Brett Finch, Daniel Abraham and Josh Perry.
But through sheer persistence, he was able to make his NRL debut for the Knights at the age of 19, way back in 2001.
‘‘Some people probably look at how I was as a 15-year-old and would say I’ve over-achieved,’’ he said.
‘‘Back then, if you told me I’d play one first-grade game, it would have been a dream come true.
‘‘But next year will be my 15th season in the NRL or Super League ... along the way I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from people like Tony Butterfield and Paul Marquet.
‘‘They probably weren’t the most gifted players but they had tremendous work ethics and were great competitors, so I learned a lot from them.’’
Now Newton finds himself emulating the Butterfields and Marquets as one of Newcastle’s senior pros.
Last season the biceps surgery restricted him to just two top-grade games, but he played a key role as the Knights made the NSW Cup grand final.
He is realistic enough to accept that the presence of back-rowers like Beau Scott, Tariq Sims, Robbie Rochow, Chris Houston and rookie Joseph Tapine means he will probably start 2015 in reserve grade.
But he has not given up on playing a role in first grade before the season is out, nor does he concede next year will be his last campaign.
‘‘While ever the club thinks I’m providing a service and I’m enjoying what I’m doing, I’ll keep playing,’’ he said. ‘‘You’re a long time retired.
‘‘If that means helping the young blokes out and providing a bit of leadership in the NSW Cup, I’m happy to fill that role.
‘‘But everyone wants to play first grade, and of course I’m the same.
‘‘All I can do is prepare myself and be in the best shape I possibly can be, and let the rest take care of itself.
‘‘Your form dictates where you end up playing.’’
Whatever unfolds next season, Newton is content just to be back playing with his home-town club.
Until the arrival of former coach Brian Smith in 2007, he had never given a second thought to playing elsewhere.
But after falling out with Smith, he gained a mid-season release to join Melbourne, whom he helped win the 2007 grand final against Manly.
Then followed stints with Hull Kingston Rovers and Penrith, before the Knights offered him a chance to come full circle and finish his career where it started.
‘‘Potentially this might be my last year, but I’m not really thinking like that,’’ he said. ‘‘My mindset is it’s open-ended and I don’t want to be thinking about retirement, because I might start to take short cuts.
‘‘I think I’ve still got something to offer and I’ve still got the same passion. This is something I love to do, and I realise how lucky I am to be in this position.’’
● Scans have confirmed Knights tyro Sione Mata’utia suffered a broken rib playing in last week’s Four Nations final against New Zealand. He is expected to have recovered by the end of his off-season break.
● The Knights members club will hold its annual general meeting in the Broadmeadow Room, Hunter Stadium, on December 4, starting at 6pm.
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