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If there is a Newcastle Knights player that typifies the club’s working class roots, then surely Bill Peden is your man.

Born-and-raised in the heart of coal mining territory in Cessnock, Peden grew up idolising the toughness of the local coal miners.    

It's a resilient and reliable attitude that flowed onto his illustrious playing days spanning nine seasons and resulting in two premierships.

Peden was known and loved as your quintessential clubman, a bloke that didn't receive all the praise but certainly had everyone's respect.    

So much so former player and Channel Nine commentator Phil Gould once famously said, ‘Give me 13 Billy Peden’s and I’ll win you a State of Origin series three-nil’.

These days Peden's diligence is well and truly put into use via his job as a control room operator with Donaldson Coal, who operate the Abel Underground Mine that's located 25 kilometres from the Port of Newcastle.    

The former lock forward has worked for the company for the past four years and can't speak highly enough of his new career path.  

"I grew up in a mining town and looked up to the work ethic of the people that worked in the mines," Peden tells Knights TV.

"That quality sort of goes along with rugby league players and to me I saw it as almost a natural progression.

"Now I’m a control room operator and I started off just as a machine operator, but I’ve been lucky enough to move up into the offices now.

"It can be a pretty stressful job at times, because you are in charge of emergency preparedness and minor management decisions within the mine.

"So it’s a step up and it’s a very responsible job and something I take very seriously."

Peden's links to the mines and countless others from across the region will be recognised this Sunday when the Newcastle Knights take on the Wests Tigers on 'Voice for Mining Family Day'.

As part of the initiative, the Knights' players will take the field for the first time in special edition hi-vis replica mining jerseys in support the area's miners.

Peden is pumped that his former club has jumped on board to honour one of the most important industries in the Newcastle and Hunter region.  

"I think the partnership with the Knights and the ‘Voice for Mining’ round is a wonderful thing," he enthuses.

"I think it's great to see the boys playing in the strip and embracing the concept.

"I might try and get one on Sunday and wear it to work on Monday (laughs). 

In all seriousness though, the mining is huge for the community and there are countless people who work in the mines from the region.

"But it’s not only the people that work in the mines.

"There is also a flow-on effect, so the cafe owners, the people that own the pubs and the benefits that the mining industry brings to the community. Without the industry this community here would be in tatters.

"So it’s something that we have to be proud of and something that we have to nurture."

Throughout the Club's proud history the Knights have always rallied under adversity in the local community.  

It happened when the earthquake hit the city hard in 1989 and also after the closure of BHP in 1997, some eight years later.   

Flash forward 17 years and Peden believes the Knights have another chance on Sunday to help lift the spirits of local people with a win over the Tigers.       

"When BHP closed down, it was a big motivation for the Knights to push on and be successful because people in the town were hurting," he recalls.

"The mining industry is the same and the town relies so heavily on it.

"I think we need to nurture it and make sure it doesn’t get to the same point as the BHP. 

"It has been tough lately with a lot of redundancies, so hopefully the boys can get a win for everyone on Sunday." 

Peden may be happily retired, but he is first to admit the footballer inside him will never die.  

"Obviously once it’s in your blood, you always feel like you’re a rugby league player," he says.

"Then common sense takes hold and you just realise that the body can’t do that forever.

"Particularly when you watch the games, it’s just so physical these days and you think, ‘oh god how did I ever do that back in the day’."

Peden achieved plenty of highlights throughout his career, including two tries in the Club's 2001 grand final triumph. 

Yet talk to the man himself and he'll quickly deflect any praise from that personal effort. 

"2001 was probably the biggest fluke in sporting history from my point of view," he says humbly.

"But ’97 was the first time a team from the region had won a national comp and it was just a really special time.

"It’s something I’m incredibly proud to be involved with.

"And the people that I’ve met along the way and the blokes I have played with, that’s just an honour.

"My career is something that I’m very proud of, but I’m also proud of my mining career that I’ve moved onto since.

"So I guess I’m sort of lucky in both senses."