AN era will end on Sunday when one of the Newcastle Knights' unsung heroes signs off after an association with the club dating back almost three decades.
Head trainer Jamie Williams has decided to blow full-time, and Newcastle's clash with the Raiders will be the last time he is in the dressing rooms, juggling multiple game-day logistics.
After the late Chris Kozaczynski, Kenny Johns and Graham Perkins, the 54-year-old from Maitland is only the fourth head trainer in the Knights' 35-season history.
Every training session, every game day, he's there before the players arrive and is still working long after they've had their ice baths and headed home.
In conjunction with ageless team manager John Thomas, he ensures everything is in place - from iced drink bottles, to tackle pads, to witches' hats - to ensure the players want for nothing and can focus exclusively on doing their jobs.
It all started more than 30 years ago, when Williams hurt his back playing for Maitland Pumpkin Pickers.
Unable to play, his teammates asked him to train them the following season.
In the process, he became familiar with Kozaczynski, who advised him to get some qualifications.
"A scrum collapsed and one of our players hurt his neck, and I did all the right things apparently," Williams recalled. "Koz was there and noticed me and encouraged me to go and do a trainers' course. It all sort of grew from there."
By 1993, he was working with Newcastle's junior teams and had his first involvement with their top-grade squad.
"Koz was away with the team at the World Sevens tournament and asked me to go to Toowoomba for a trial match," Williams recalled.
"I think it might have been the first-ever game Matty and Joey [Andrew Johns] played together. That was my first trip away."
A few years later, he spent two seasons with the ill-fated Hunter Mariners, before returning to the Knights when Super League folded.
"I didn't leave on bad terms at all, because I got on with everyone," he said.
"I actually helped the Knights out at some trials while I was working for the Mariners."
Seven years ago, when Perkins retired, Williams was promoted from the support cast to head trainer, which has meant that days off during the season are sometimes few and far between.
Over the past 12 months, family reasons have prompted him to reassess his priorities.
First his mother, Lorraine Tonkins passed away last year at the age of 70, while the Knights, because of COVID restrictions, were based on the Sunshine Coast.
"It probably didn't hit me until we got back from the Sunshine Coast and I realised life had changed," he said.
Now another significant event is looming on the horizon. "My son is about to become a parent for the first time, and I realised I wanted to spend more time with my family," he said.
A new career opportunity arose as a business development and program manager for schoolchildren who are doing trainees and apprenticeships.
"Initially it was only a conversation," he said. "But then I was asked to apply, and I got the job, and I thought it's time for a change."
Williams didn't have to think too long before pinpointing the highlight of his time at the Knights.
"The friendships you create, and the wonderful people you get to meet," he said.
"And I guess I've always taken satisfaction out of turning up every day and doing the very best I can.
"And obviously there is nothing better than coming into the stadium when it's a packed house. There's nothing that rivals it."
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