It’s not very often the chance comes along for people to see the intimate inner workings of a rugby league team.
But for Newcastle Knights Members Aaron and Ami Morrow, they received a rare opportunity to get to know the Newcastle Knights on their trip to Brisbane for their Round 7 match against the Brisbane Broncos.
Aaron, who has been a Knights Member since 2011, recruited some mates to join as 2016 Members and was the lucky winner of the recruiters prize which entitled him and his partner to an all expenses paid trip away with the team.
“We are both born in Newcastle and my family has always supported the Knights,” Aaron’s partner Ami said.
“We signed up a couple of our friends this year and they sit with us in the stands.”
The couple’s main selling point to get their friends over the line was the unique and exciting experience live football offers as entertainment.
“It’s more the atmosphere. Nothing beats going to the game,” she said.
“You get outside and can sit in the sun. In winter it’s good to get out and do something social."
“I love being able to watch NRL footy in a regional centre,” Aaron added.
The whirlwind trip kicked off at Wests Mayfield, the team’s training headquarters where Aaron and Ami boarded the team bus after watching the team’s final training run.
“We arrived at the airport and it’s interesting watching how the public watch all the boys and get signatures,” Aaron observed.
When the team arrived in Brisbane it was time to quickly settle in to the hotel before dinner.
“Kimberly (the Newcastle Knights' Membership manager) gave us a quick call and said Jeremy Smith was down stairs and we had a chat to Jeremy and Kade Snowden before we went to dinner,” he said.
“That was a good side of it. You got see them not just in the media.
“You learn about their families a bit more and have a normal conversation with them.
“They are normal, genuine people and the loved talking about family and stuff outside of footy.
"It was a good change than seeing what they talk about on the news.
“It was a different side to them.”
Saturday brought with it game day and the business end of the trip when the players slipped into their focused, game preparation mode.
“Saturday morning we got up and had breakfast with the guys,” Aaron said.
“They all constantly came up and said hi and introduced themselves."
While the players began their usual game day rituals at the hotel, Ami and Aaron spent time exploring Brisbane for the first time.
“Dane Gagai was giving us the heads up on where to go because he’s from Brisbane,” he said.
“Then the time came to prepare for the trip to Suncorp Stadium.
“The highlight for me was travelling to the game in the team bus.
“It was a different vibe to the day before.
“They were all in zone and all took it differently.
“Some of the boys looked pretty serious and others were relaxed.
“Some of the boys I wouldn’t have expected were singing on the bus.
“That was interesting seeing the different personalities and how they all reacted to it.
“It’s not something you see all the time through the Footy Show or things like that.”
As part of the prize, Ami and Aaron were front and centre at Suncorp Stadium to watch the match.
The couple was thrilled to meet and have their picture taken with rugby league legend, Wally Lewis during the game.
“It was definitely interesting seeing how it was different to a home game,” Aaron said.
“When we jumped up and cheered it was like we were the only ones and when everyone else was we were just sitting there."
While the game was far from the result the team and Members were hoping for, Aaron was diplomatic in his review of the encounter.
“It was a bit of an avalanche for the boys and they copped a bit of bad luck in the way of injuries,” he said.
“They were pretty red-hot Brisbane and think they would have done that to most sides.”
In the sheds
After the disappointing loss, the Members were in the dressing sheds to witness the post game team talk and the players’ recovery.
“After the game the guys were really good,” he said.
“There were quite a few fans in the fan bay and they all went to thank those guys and took them a while to get them in because they were all signing autographs and giving the fans plenty of time.
“It’s not something you see all the time as well.
“They do really appreciate the support, especially after what they went through for 80 minutes and that they stuck around.
"Some guys were getting dragged away for autographs because they had to get into the sheds and get ready for the bus.
"We went in and a few of the boys came up and apologized but we said, don’t apologise.
"We had a peek into the press conference with Browny (coach Nathan Brown) and Tariq (Sims), which was realy interesting. It was a different side of things as well."
Behind the scenes
For a die-hard footy fan like Aaron, who has grown up watching and playing the game, observing the inner workings of the team he loves was a unique and exciting opportunity.
“Being a footy fan and playing footy growing up it was definitely great to see how it all works,” Aaron said.
"Even from the point of the Club’s support staff and the trainers and how all the trainers and physios prepare.
“It’s not just all the players but the people they have around them.
“It was eye opening that’s for sure.
"It’s good to get an idea on who they are as people outside of football and that’s what Ami got out of it.
“They all family guys.”
The trip home from Brisbane on Sunday was far from routine for the Newcastle Knights.
A storm closed Newcastle Airport after part of the terminal’s roof collapsed.
This meant the team’s flight was forced to return to Brisbane with long delays to follow.
“On Sunday with the travel, all the boys were pretty keen to get back home,” Aaron said.
While an airport delay is an inconvenience for any traveller, the logistics of managing an entire team and gear is a challenge.
“The amount of work that had to go into getting all the people back home with the amount of gear, it was eye opening to see how much work goes into one day,” he said.
Thankfully, after a later flight and bus ride from Sydney, the travelling party made it back to Newcastle at midnight on Sunday.
“I was pretty knackered until Tuesday and I didn’t even play,” he said.
"It was just from the travel."
Aaron and Ami consider themselves incredibly lucky to have been a part of the team’s away trip and to experience the inner sanctum of the Club and to get to know the players on a personal level.
“It was very exciting and I would encourage the Knights to continue to do things like this,” he said
“You feel like you have an idea as a person, not just as a footy player.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
It’s not too late to recruit a Knights Member or join for the 2016 season. Anyone who joins as a 2016 Newcastle Knights Member will go into the draw to win:
- Two tickets to Origin I
- Two tickets to Origin III
- Two Chairman’s Lounge Tickets to Knights v Rabbitohs round 25
- Two Tickets to the 2016 Grand Final
And what’s even better is that existing Knights Members can double their chances to win by recruiting another Member for the 2016 to win the recruiter prize. Simply make sure you are listed as the recruiter when signing a new Member up for your additional chances to win. The more you recruit, the more chances you have to win.