Saturday’s game against the St George Illawarra Dragons will carry special meaning for the Newcastle Knights as they passionately compete for the inaugural Alex McKinnon Cup.
The Alex McKinnon Cup, a joint initiative by the two clubs, will be an annual event and played for on the first occasion the two sides meet in a season.
The Knights have expressed a strong desire to conjure a strong and gutsy performance in honour of their teammate.
New recruit Jack Stockwell went to school with McKinnon and will come up against his former Club on Saturday for the Round 5 clash.
As McKinnon made his NRL debut at the Dragons in 2011 and went on to play three games before joining the Knights in 2012, where he played 46 first grade games, Stockwell understands the connection both Club’s share with the inspirational player.
“It’s a big honour playing in the first time it’s been played,” Stockwell said.
“I’m really looking forward to it, especially against my old club and especially for Macca (McKinnon).
“He’s going to be there watching, so hopefully we can get the win.”
Knowing McKinnon since his junior football days, Tyler Randell will also gain added motivation on Saturday.
“It’s another reason to play well for the Alex McKinnon Cup against St George,” Randell said.
“Everyone stays in contact with Alex. I grew up with him and played a lot of juniors with him, so that’s another reason to rip in and hopefully get another win.”
For five-eighth Jarrod Mullen, the Alex McKinnon Cup offers another chance for the Knights to honour his contribution, but believes this time around, raw emotion won’t impact on the team’s performance.
“Macca (McKinnon) played for both the Knights and the Dragons, so it will be an emotional game for him and an emotional game for us," Mullen said.
“But we can’t let it over awe us like it did against the Titans.
“That was one of the most emotional days I’ve had and it probably affected the way we played.
“We respect the day and want to help Alex along, but we obviously have a job to do.”
Knights prop Kade Snowden is eager to claim the trophy and expects his teammates will be encouraged by the added significance of the game.
“For us, this is a chance to win the first time for the trophy, so we will be playing for it as hard as we can just to show our appreciation for what he did for the Club and show that we still care for him,” Snowden said.
“I always class him as a teammate and always will. I think everyone is the same."
Meanwhile veteran Jeremy Smith has praised the two clubs for introducing the annual match.
“It’s always going to be special playing for the Cup. It’s one thing that we want to win,” Smith said.
“I think it’s a great idea for the Clubs to have something to honour Alex. I can’t wait to get out there.”
Gates open at Hunter Stadium at 5pm for NYC to kick off at 5.15pm before NRL at 7.30pm.