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A 10am call up, a punch up and a serious knee injury isn’t the ideal way to start a career in rugby league.

But it’s Mark Sargent’s story.

These day’s it’d be called a disaster, however back in 1986 it was called a debut.

Making his run on debut for Canterbury-Bankstown against Manly, it’s a lesson the nib Newcastle Knights legend was forced to learn the hardest way possible.

Reflecting on his glittering career, Sargent was more than happy to go into detail about his tough start to life in first grade.

“Peter Tunks withdrew from the side the morning of the game,” Sargent told the Our Town Our Team podcast.

“Tony Charlton, the second-grade coach, rang me up at sort of ten in the morning and said hey mate, you’re playing in the ones today.

“It’s not the best prep, getting thrown into your starting debut the morning of the game.”

The short preparation didn’t seem to hamper Sargent, who would go on to play 145 first grade games and represent his state and country.



“I ran around out there and we got beat, it was a pretty close game,” he said.

With the 80s being the 80s, and Sargent lining up as a fresh-faced debutant in the front row, his debut match wasn’t exactly the dream he imagined it would be.

“Ronny Gibbs, being Ronny Gibbs had to have a swing at me, so I had my first punch up,” he laughed.

“We went at it hammer and tong.

“Ronny clearly started it…but the referee would not cop a single word.”

Despite the incident, Sargent holds no ill feelings towards Gibbs.

“I’d actually been playing okay, the punch up didn’t worry me too much,” he said.

“Ronny had a bit of history up in Newcastle, I played juniors against his brother Tom, who was a bloody good player as well.

“I don’t think I necessarily had a target on my head, back then if you see a debutant in the front row you’ve got to have a swing.”

While most players would be rattled by either the punch up or short preparation, Sargent was not most players.

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Unfortunately, his toughness became obsolete once the second half got underway.

“Later in the game, about ten minutes into the second half, I got spun around trying to tackle Crusher (Noel) Cleal and ruptured an MCL,” he explained.

“I was out for about nine weeks after that.

“These days you might miss four or five, but in those days it was all surgical.”