Pulling on the red and blue for the Newcastle Knights this Sunday in the NSW Cup grand final will be a proud moment for Clint Newton.
In his first season back with the Knights in seven years, after stints at Melbourne, Hull KR and the Panthers, the 33-year has returned to Newcastle with the intent to give back to the Club that first gave him his break in the game in 2001.
“It means a lot to me, this was one of my goals I had,” he told Knights TV on Thursday.
“At the start of the season I always write down some goals and one of them was to get this side into the grand final, and now I’ve achieved it or at least contributed to helping them.”
“Now we’ve got to that point it’s about putting in a good solid performance together and the result will hopefully take care of itself,” Newton added.
“At the moment it’s just building up nicely, there’s a whole lot of energy around the team and hopefully we can do the job for the Club and the town."
For the experienced forward, who has played more than 100 first grade games with the Knights, he has found playing in the NSW Cup ranks satisfying and rewarding.
"I’ve loved it,” he said.
“Obviously everyone wants to play first grade, but you have to understand sometimes it doesn’t work out like that, and I was under no illusion that when I came here that I would have to spend time in State Cup.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time, I feel like the guys have not so much as rejuvenated my career, but it’s certainly prolonged it by being around such good guys that have a lot of energy and want to listen and learn."
He believes the spot in the grand final is a just reward for the side’s determination and ambition after rectifying inconsistencies earlier in the season and says the most rewarding part has been working with the club’s junior talent and witnessing their growth and development.
“It’s a real credit to this group, they’ve gone through a lot this year,” he said.
“(Rick) Stoney’s done a tremendous job and I’m really proud to say that hopefully I’ve had a really good impact on some of them.
“I’ll take great satisfaction out of watching them play first grade in the future."
After spending the past two seasons at the Panthers, Newton can give valuable insight into the Knights' tough opposition.
“They’re a very well organised side as you can see in first grade too, they play very similar structures," he said.
“Garth Brennan, I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and they have some real staunch, seasoned first graders there so they’ll bring a whole lot of experience.
"They’ll bring a lot of energy too because they’ll be riding on the wave of first grade.
“But I look forward to playing them and am sure it will be a very good physical game on Sunday."
The season has been anything but smooth sailing for Newton who ruptured his bicep in a trial match at the start of the year.
Despite the arduous task of rehabilitation, he remained positive and fixed his sight on a return to the field, which he made in June.
He assured there has been a relaxed feel in camp this week with his teammates fit and ready, lapping up the experience of heading into the premiership decider.
“The week has been good and we got through the weekend without too many injuries,” Newton said.
“It’s a really together group here and that’s one of the things I’ve really loved about it.
“We’ve just gone about our work and it’s no different this week.
“We’ve been training hard and having lots of fun.
“It should be one of the best weeks of our life because it’s what everyone wants to do.
“No matter what grade you play, you want to play in the grand final and hopefully win it, so that’s what we get a chance to do on Sunday.”