IF Steve Roach ever took a backward step on the rugby league field, I must have missed it.
Big "Blocker" never needed to bother retaliating, because invariably he was the instigator. He could dish it out and take it, with a smile on his face, back in an era when cocked elbows and flying fists were an occupational hazard, and broken noses were a badge of honour.
Roach was one of those rare players with the priceless ability to intimidate his opposition before he had even set foot on the field.
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Given his daunting reputation, it came as something of a surprise when the Hall of Fame enforcer let slip a secret on Foxtel this week, more than 30 years after hanging up the boots.
When his Balmain Tigers were preparing to play in Newcastle, Roach admitted he "never slept real well" in the lead-up to the game.
There can be no higher praise for the Knights' forwards of that era.
They earned his respect, and rightfully so.
In those inaugural seasons under coach Allan McMahon, every game was like a smash-up derby for the Knights. The higher an opponent's profile, the harder they tried to hit him. When Roach and teammates like Paul Sironen, Wayne Pearce, David Brooks, Bruce McGuire, Benny Elias and Kerry Hemsley rolled into town, the young Knights used to go at them like heat-seeking missiles.
In just their third game of that 1988 season, the Knights outmuscled and upset the star-studded Tigers 20-16 in front of 24,060 jubilant fans at what was then known as the International Sports Centre - and a proud tradition was set in stone.
The Knights were a long way from the most glamorous team in the competition and had few players capable of producing attacking razzle-dazzle.
But when it came to rolling up their sleeves for a battle in the trenches, they showed a relish for the task that left even grizzled warriors like Blocker Roach nervous as the Tigers' team bus headed up the Pacific Highway.
Newcastle's first great pack evolved between 1988 and 1990, culminating in a 16-14 triumph against Balmain in a blockbuster final-round game - in front of a record 32,217 at the ISC - to force a play-off for fifth against the same team.
The starting six that day were Marc Glanville, Paul Marquet, Tony Butterfield, Mark Sargent, David Mullane and Peter Johnston, with Sam Stewart and David Boyd coming off the bench.
Two years later, Newcastle had a new dummy-half in Robbie McCormack, and a new dominant force in Paul Harragon, who had finally shrugged off a series of injuries to realise his potential.
Not surprisingly, with two Test props in "Sarge" and "Chief" bulldozing teams into submission up front, the Knights qualified for the finals for the first time.
The following season, a new weapon emerged in back-rower Adam Muir, whose off-loading prowess gave the Knights an extra dimension.
The nucleus of that pack, supplemented by quiet achiever Billy Peden and back-rower Wayne Richards, laid the platform for Newcastle to reach a preliminary final in 1995 and then produce a grand final fairytale in 1997.
Four years later, when the Knights prepared to face Parramatta in their second title decider, many felt their forwards would be their weak link. But with the benefit of hindsight, is it any surprise that a starting pack featuring Peden, Steve Simpson, Ben Kennedy, Matt Parsons, Danny Buderus and Josh Perry - with Marquet, Glenn Grief and Clinton O'Brien the bench-warmers - steamrolled the Eels to lead 24-0 at half-time?
The back row, in particular, was surely as good as any in the modern era.
All of which brings me, in roundabout, rambling fashion, to the point of this column - the prospect of the Knights fielding another powerhouse pack next season, after their signing of Test star Tyson Frizell.
Frizell will join fellow NSW Origin front-rowers David Klemmer and Daniel Saifiti in the run-on team, along with hooker Jayden Brailey. Mitch Barnett, Sione Mata'utia, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Tim Glasby are all contracted to Newcastle next year, while new coach Adam O'Brien will have formidable depth at his disposal if he can also re-sign Connor Watson, Jacob Saifiti, Herman Ese'ese and Aidan Guerra.
On paper, at least, it shapes as a forward rotation capable of great things.
Of course, games are won on the field, not on paper, and it is worth remembering that late last season most of those players were involved in Newcastle's thrashings by Wests Tigers (46-4) and Penrith (54-10).
That embarrassment provided the perfect motivation as they embraced O'Brien's punishing pre-season.
Newcastle's performances in their first two games this year - wins against the Warriors (20-0) and Tigers (42-24) - were evidence of a united team, hell-bent on making amends for last season and ending a finals drought dating back to 2013.
Whether they will get that chance in 2020 remains to be seen. Knights fans can only keep their fingers crossed that the season resumes, because it's been a long time since their team started a campaign in such positive fashion.
Whatever the case, it seems fair to assume that the addition of Frizell will only improve them. Another great Knights pack could be on the horizon.