As a player, Clint Newton was never the best. Not even close.
In a golden era for the Knights when the likes of Andrew Johns, Danny Buderus, Ben Kennedy, Matt Gidley and Steve Simpson reigned supreme, Newton was much more support act than star.
But what he did better than others, largely through effort and desire, was get every ounce of talent and ability out of himself to finish a 14-season career with more than 270 top grade games to his credit both here and in England.
And along the way, he also developed outstanding leadership qualities that fittingly culminated in him returning to the Knights to finish his career and leading a bunch of largely up-and-coming youngsters at the club to a NSW Cup premiership win.
He has put those same leadership qualities to great use ever since.
Earlier this week as boss of the Rugby League Players Association, Newton was front and centre as a new wage agreement for the next two seasons between the NRL and the players was rubber-stamped. It was the culmination of 10 months of countless meetings, phonecalls and negotiations brought on by the unprecedented challenge that COVID-19 presented the code. In that period, Newton negotiated three new wage deals.
At the same time while working around the clock, upper most in his thoughts was the deteriorating health of his father Jack, who has been battling Alzheimer's disease for more than 12 months.
Commission chairman Peter V'landys has rightly been lavished with praise for the job he has done during that period but don't underestimate Newton's role in uniting the players and the game's hierachy.
Negotiating salary caps and wage cuts is always an emotive issue but largely because he has the trust of both sides of the debate, Newton was able to find common ground with a minimum of fuss and not a bad word said from either side.
When we contacted Newton about his achievements since taking on the RLPA CEO's job just three days before the NRL competition shutdown in March last year, he typically deflected the praise to his staff, the players and clubs and NRL bosses V'landys and Andrew Abdo.
"As a former player, I can't stress enough how proud I am of the senior players right across the game and their role in all of this and how they have handled things and my staff deserve great credit as well," he said.
"They have worked tirelessly during a really challenging period with the welfare of the players paramount. I've also had some great advice from a lot of people and the support of Peter and Andrew to get to a really good outcome for everyone has been great."
New sponsor for Knights
It has been a tough sell for the Knights over the past couple of seasons with the club refusing to under-value prominent sponsorship space on the back of their jersey.
As a result, they have gone without a major back-of-the-jumper sponsor since their arrangement with betting agency Ladbrokes ended prior to the 2019 season.
But the club's decision to knock back several interested parties who had been willing to come on board for a reduced rate has paid off with the Knights poised to announce a lucrative deal with multinational health and wellness company Isagenix.
We understand the finer details of the deal are still being thrashed out but they will definitely be onboard for the start of the 2021 season in March. It leaves just one shorts sponsorship spot available on the Knights playing strip for this season.
Knights leaders unveiled
We are expecting Knights coach Adam O'Brien to officially unveil his new-look senior leadership group next week following the club's week-long camp in Tamworth.
Expect as many as five players to be named to fill the roles with O'Brien revealing recently he has been working on his leadership model for the past six months.
Veteran five-eight Blake Green is still our tip to be named captain but a final decision on who will be handed the honour won't be made under closer to kick-off.
We understand all five players will be asked to share the load during the season.
Spat over ex-Knight
There is nothing like a contract dispute to spice things up between arch-rivals.
Coalfields combatants Cessnock and Kurri don't generally need a reason to fire up against each other so an off-field pre-season battle over the services of former Knight Tyler Randell will only add to the rivalry.
Kurri has signed the experienced utility player for this season but his former club Cessnock is refusing to grant him a release, alleging he owes the club money from 2020 when he was signed with the Goannas but did not fulfil commitments to the club.
Newcastle RL boss Matt Harris confirmed Cessnock has not yet granted Randell a release to join the Bulldogs.
"It's obviously something that will need to be sorted out between the clubs before things kick off," Harris told us.
Central Newcastle coach Phil Williams admits he has no idea at this stage who will partner veteran playmaker Luke Walsh in the halves when the local league comp kicks off at the end of March. Williams has an embarrassment of riches in the five-eighth department with the likes of Brad Murray, Dylan Phythian and Jack Kelly all contenders.
Former Wests veteran Warren Schillings will play a swansong season with Central, fulfilling a promise he made to his old Knights juniors coach. "He told me ages ago he'd have one last season with me before he finishes up,"Williams said.
New naming-rights deal
Still on the local comp, we hear the Newcastle RL is close to announcing a new multi-season naming rights sponsor for first grade.