The history of the nib Newcastle Knights is kept alive by the many men who have pulled on the red and blue jersey since the Club’s inaugural year in 1988.
Knights TV has tracked down some of the best through the years to see where they are now and what their lives look like after footy.
It’s been more than 20 years since Jarrod O’Doherty first ran out for the red and blues, but looking back admits it was some of the best years of his life.
“It was a great experience,” O’Doherty told Knights TV.
“Having grown up here in the Hunter, dreaming of playing for the Knights and then getting the opportunity to do that was great.
“I formed some life-long friendships and there’s some mates that I’m still really close to, which is something really important to me and something I cherish.”
O’Doherty had two stints with the Knights, from 1997 to 1998 and then was back for the Club in 2001 to 2002, while also playing locally for Wests.
The gutsy forward also got the opportunity to play abroad in 2003.
“I went to Huddersfield and played in the super league so that was an enormous life experience and something I owe footy a lot for the experience I got,” he reminisced.
While some players were full-time on the field, O’Doherty was one of the many in those days who still had to hold down a full-time job, which helped his transition to life off the field.
“I was probably fortunate in some respects that while I played footy, I was never one of the higher paid players, I worked a lot of the time while I played,” O’Doherty explained.
“It got me into this industry (hospitality retail) and gave me some foundations in something that I could do after footy and build a career outside of rugby league.
“That’s something players really need to be aware of because footy doesn’t go forever and you need to have some sort of traction so you can make that transition a little bit easier.”
Home from England after retiring from the game, O’Doherty started a business which he worked on building up over time and just a few years ago bought a small operation locally.
“I built that up and in August last year we merged with Reward Hospitality which is a multi-national company, so I have got a strong partnership with those guys in this market,” O’Doherty added.
“They recognise a need for a local presence in this market and how parochial the Newcastle market is, and the partnership has worked really well and we’re growing really strongly.
“Another thing current players should realise is the network that you make through playing sport in this town is very powerful.
“They can potentially leverage themselves to create a life outside of footy when they finish.”
On the new committee for the Old Boys, O’Doherty is still heavily involved within the Club that he loves and is thankful for the platform it has provided him.
“I’m very passionate about the Knights,” said O’Doherty.
“The Old Boys come together regularly and my position on the committee has elevated that for me.
“I’m looking forward to the next 12 months where we are making some differences and building on the great work that the guys before us have put in place.”
And the former Knight is excited about what’s ahead for the red and blues, with a new look team in 2018.
“The young guys have been fantastic and their experiences over the last couple of years will put them in good stead for opportunities in first grade for the next couple of years.
“There are some good young kids there, Brock Lamb, Sam Stone and a number of others and I think it is really important to the people of this town that kids come through from their junior club and play here.
“There’s been some big opportunities to bring in some superior players and strengthen the squad, so all looks well for a fantastic season.”