The Knights’ two premiership trophies are among the most hallowed objects in Newcastle history.
On Saturday, before the last game of the season against the Dragons, supporters will get the chance to relive a bit of this history.
In the fan-zone outside McDonald Jones Stadium, supporters can get photos with Knights old boys and the grand final trophies of 1997 and 2001.
Paul “Chief” Harragon was captain in 1997 when the Knights beat Manly 22-16.
“The trophies are a symbol for our club and region – they’re the highest pinnacle of the game,” Harragon said.
Mark Hughes was part of both title-winning teams.
Hughes said the trophies “brought so much joy, happiness and euphoria to our communities”.
Harragon said the ‘97 triumph was a symbol of “the town binding together and achieving something special”.
“It was the 200th birthday of Newcastle that year. At the time, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot to cheer about, given the fact that BHP was going to leave the town and a lot of jobs were to be lost.
“The Super League war was in full force and the town was split. That trophy unified and lifted the whole town to incredible heights.”
A better script could not have been written.
“Our arch rival Manly had beaten us 11 or 12 times in a row – we were never a chance of winning. But every now and then a bit of magic happens,” he said.
When he lifted the trophy as captain, he felt a strong sense of occasion.
“It was a little bit dreamlike. Everything seemed to be a little strange and phenomenal leading up to it. That week, the things we did and said, it was all unusual – so it kind of fitted.”
Hughes said the ‘97 game was “enormous”.
“Just getting back to the Newcastle Workers Club at the time and getting that realisation of what this meant for the town, having people absolutely everywhere – it was pandemonium around the streets. Likewise in 2001, we came back to the stadium. It was the NRL's first grand final at night. We had the stadium filled with people waiting to see us at 2am. It was surreal.”
As for more recently, Harragon said: “It’s been very lean times, something we’re not used to. I’d like to think the cycle is on an ascending ark. I see the players searching in their own way for what the essence of the club is all about. I sense them having a great respect for the past, but wanting to create their own traditions. These guys are the guardians of a new era.”
Hughes said the team was “a long way ahead of where they were this time last year”.
“I’m certainly proud of the team and excited for what lays ahead.”
The trophies will be on display in the fan precinct from 12.30pm to 3pm.
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