Tradition, passion, honour and pride.
They are words that typify the Newcastle Knights’ most significant event on the calendar, Old Boys Day.
Whether you’ve played your junior football for the Knights or are a more recent addition to the family, Old Boys Day is revered by anyone who pulls on the red and blue.
Old Boys Day is held annually on the last home game of the season and sees the Club’s past players and staff members converge on Hunter Stadium to celebrate and reflect on the rich history and tradition forged since its inception in 1988.
Speak to any of the current Knights about the sacred day and they open up about the intense sense of motivation they receive from having the Club’s forebearers watching on as they play.
Jarrod Mullen has bled red and blue since he became a member of the Knights’ junior system as a fledgling teenager.
The proud Novocastrian has since played 197 games for the Club and touts the annual Old Boys occasion as one of the most memorable and emotional highlights of his career.
Although injury will prevent him taking the field on Saturday, he plans to soak up the electric atmosphere that builds to a crescendo as the team takes the field through the Old Boys guard of honour.
“It’s one of the best days you can play and a highlight of my career playing Old Boys Day when they are they’re clapping you out,” Mullen reflected fondly.
“It’s always a big occasion for us, and there’s no bigger occasion than the Bulldogs.
“I’m gutted I’m not playing, but will be there in spirit.
Mullen describes the unique inspiration players draw from interacting with the past players.
“You’re playing for the jersey every week, but you’re playing for the past players that have been there and have bled and sweat for the jumper," he added.
“It means so much to the boys to play in front of them and definitely gives the boys a lift.”
NRL new-comer, Jake Mamo will play his first Old Boys Day on the big stage and considers it an honour to be a part of the Club’s most significant occasion.
“I’m really excited to play on Old Boys Day this year, I’ve never experienced playing on an Old Boys Day,” Mamo said.
“For all the ex-players to be there, it gives you a little bit of motivation that you know those guys that you grew up watching are going to be there watching you and you have to perform well.
“It should be a good experience.”
Veteran forward Jeremy Smith looks forward to the boost the Old Boys presence brings to the side.
“Running out with the guard of honour with the Old Boys is something very special,” Smith said.
“You see faces who wore the jersey before you. On the day it’s about going out there and making them proud.
“It’s always good to finish with Old Boys Day at home and going out there and doing it in front of them.”
For Tyrone Roberts, Old Boys Day stirs deep emotion.
As a player who kick-started his NRL career as a Knights junior and grew up idolising Knights legends of the past, Old Boys Day is a truly special occasion.
“As a player who has progressed through the system, the Old Boys have set that platform and you want to challenge yourself because you know you’re going to be watching,” Roberts said.
“They are very emotional days and you see them up in the stands and they set the platform for us."
Roberts explains the immense energy of the Old Boys guard of honour that greets the side as it enters the stadium is a spine tingling experience for young players.
“You can’t really explain it, when you see that guard of honour, there’s so many people that have been there, played the game and set this foundation for us,” he said.
“You just don’t want to let the down.
“When you see that, it’s an eye opener as a young kid coming through."
Most of all Roberts loves seeing the enjoyment the day bring to the Club’s legends and the meaningful connection it fosters between the current and past players.
“The Old Boys love it…no matter if it’s a win or loss, as long as you’ve ripped in on that day, it’s great,” he added.
In addition to the traditional Old Boys Day, the Club will celebrate the career and contribution of departing Captain Kurt Gidley and other departing Newcastle Knights with events and activities happening before and after the game.
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