When Michael Hagan arrived in Newcastle as a marquee signing, some may have called it a gamble.
Sure, he was a gun halfback and a premiership winner with Canterbury-Bankstown but he was on the injured list.
It was a bad one too. How bad?
A head-on collision in late 1987 could have ended it all.
He escaped the car crash with a fractured and dislocated hip.
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Contracted to the Bulldogs, the newly former Newcastle Knights were in search of an experienced player and Hagan was their man.
“I actually came back from a car accident where I dislocated my hip in December of 87,” Hagan told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“My future wasn’t looking all that bright with that injury to recover from.
“The Knights approached me before I got back on the field to play second grade, before I ultimately went on to play first grade. They saw that they needed to sign a couple of established players. Myself, Mark Sargent, Peter Johnson, Garry Wurth, Johnny Allanson.
“We were maybe the 4-5 key players that they were looking to sign.”
In those days, a hip injury of the magnitude could’ve easily been career ending.
While history shows Hagan overcame the injury, won his second premiership in 1988 and then moved to the Knights, was there a moment he thought the car crash could’ve forced him into retirement?
“Possibly,” he said.
“The rehab was probably six or eight months and there was a whole range of issues around blood supply to the head of your femur and capsule and making sure that you could have weight bearing type exercise.
“I got good advice, Canterbury were always really well looked after in the medical area. So, I got myself back maybe 6-7 months later.”
Unlike today, players could visit rival clubs undetected as part of the courtship.
Hagan and 1997 premiership winner Mark Sargent both visited Marathon Stadium before putting pen to paper.
“There were no mobile phones, there was no social media,” he explained.
“I don’t think it got a mention in the media at that time. But it just gave you a great experience to understand what it was you were coming into. That expectation that the town puts on you if you are a marquee player, and you’re getting paid well. That the expectation is there for you that you get out there and you play well.”
It was while he was standing on the hill that he pictured himself wearing the red and blue.
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He would go on to captain the team the following season.
“I could see myself in Newcastle being one of the more senior players,” he said.
“I had five great years beyond their and now were talking 30 years down the track and the Knights are getting themselves back into a good position again. There is no better rugby league community, I think that’s something we all gravitated to at the time.”