Why I missed the 2001 grand final

Clint Newton didn’t feature in the 2001 NRL grand final.

As history shows, the Newcastle Knights beat a red-hot Parramatta Eels 30-24.

Steve Simpson and Ben Kennedy were the starting backrowers with Daniel Abraham, Paul Marquet, Glenn Grief and Clinton O'Brien on the bench.

But according to Newton, it could’ve and should’ve been him in the 17.

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“I’d worked really hard on playing big minutes in reserve grade and he basically said you’re not going to get considered in the semis unless you can play 80 minutes in reserve grade,” Newton said on the Our Town Our Team podcast.  

“At that age, reserve grade was really strong.

“I’d worked hard to do that and Hages brought me back in to first grade and this was a week or two before the semis and basically said this is the side I’m going to run with in the finals and you’re in it.

“I played against the Tigers and I just came off the bench and went to take a hit-up.

“I pushed BK out the way and came off the back fence and I turned my left shoulder in and felt a massive crunch.

“… I couldn’t pick my arm up. The trainer came out and said; ‘I think you’ve done your rotator cuff, you’re done’.”

It wasn’t his rotator cuff. It was his scapula. He’d broken it.

“It went right the way down to within an inch of the bottom,” he told.

“It’s something you get in car accidents in a T-Bone.

“That was the end of my season.”

Julian Bailey came in for Newton and broke his arm the next game.

That then opened the door for Abraham to enter the side.

“It was fanatic to see a guy I played junior footy with,” he said.

“While it was disappointing to not play in the premiership but to play a considerable amount of games that year and even be around that squad was special.”

The 2001 season was his rookie year.

It finished with an injury … the same way it started.

Newton had broken his scaphoid earlier in the year in a training accident.

He had a screw inserted and was eager to return having only recently played representative football alongside the likes of Justin Hodges, Ashley Harrison, Brent Tate and Mark O’Meley.

“I had three months out,” he recalled.

“I was fresh off the back of making the Junior Kangaroos and I was one of two players that hadn’t played first grade in that Junior Kangaroos team.

“… I came back into Reserve Grade in about Round 4 or 5 off the bench and two or three weeks later I got a call from Hages (Michael Hagan) saying I need you to come to training.”

Ben Donaldson was racing the clock to be fit to face the Warriors and Newton was next in line.

He’d copped a shot to the throat the week before and was ruled out.

Newton was in.

“Michael Hagan did a fantastic job of blooding a lot of us through that year,” Newton said.

“He had a policy where you play two or three matches, get dropped back down, no matter how good you were going and someone else would have a go. Basically, to thicken up his squad.

“Guys like myself and Kurt Gidley and Matt Jobson, John Morris – there was a whole string of players brought into first grade to blood them.”