"I'm signing with Newcastle and I want you to come with me"

Most Newcastle Knights fans will remember when Alex McKinnon signed with the club in 2011.

An Aberdeen lad returning home.

An up and coming footballer coming back to his roots.

But what most might not know is how it came about.

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McKinnon admits his journey from the Dragons to the Knights wasn’t as smooth as he would have liked it.

It was rather arduous.

“I tried to re-sign with the Dragons early in the year but what they offered me wasn’t what I thought I could get,” said McKinnon.

“The reality was if the Dragons weren’t going to offer me what I thought I was worth, then maybe Newcastle was an option for me.

“I asked my manager at the time, can you sound out the Knights, I said I want to go to Newcastle.

“I was playing pretty good footy at the time, I was in the Australian junior Kangaroos when I was 19, so I was in a good position to ask what clubs I wanted to go to.”

For about four months he kept asking the club …. but nothing was coming back in return.

He figured they must not have wanted him.

But a yearning to come back home fuelled his determination.

The 19-year-old kid wanted to be close to his family, his partner and his mates.

This is where he grew up, this is what he knew… and playing for the Knights would be a dream come true.

“All my mates that I grew up with lived in Newcastle, my childhood sweetheart Tegan was left finishing school and she was going to university in Newcastle,” McKinnon explained.

“My pop passed away at the start of 2011 and my nan was someone I was really close with, so I always had that inkling of moving back to Newcastle.

“I was a Knights fan as a kid, I loved Joey Johns, Steve Simpson and players like that so it all kind of lined up.”

Importantly, he got there in the end, with a little help.

It was thanks to former coach Wayne Bennett, who himself signed with the red and blue in 2011.

“Wayne was off contract with the Dragons in 2011,” said McKinnon.

 “Fortunately, Wayne signed with the Knights.

“We went out to dinner and he said, do you want to come to Newcastle?

“I said mate I’ve been trying to get a deal done there for four months.

“He said I’m signing with Newcastle and I want you to come with me.

“As a kid, being under him and seeing how other people treated him and looked up to him, it was a pretty easy sales pitch.

“I said tell me where to sign. I then debuted a week later.”