Punished with missing GF for signing with Knights

It was September 11, 1988.

It’s a day that still doesn’t sit well in the mind of Mark Sargent.

It was grand final day, the first to take place at the newly opened Sydney Football Stadium, with Sargent’s then-club Canterbury-Bankstown taking on Balmain.

The Bulldogs went on to win the game 24-12 and take home their fourth premiership of the decade.

Sargent, in his third season since making his debut, watched on from the grandstand.

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There’s no doubt in his mind as to why he didn’t play that day.

“When it came to my decision to leave (to sign with Newcastle), it wasn’t well received,” Sargent claimed on the Our Town Our Team podcast.

“That was part of my punishment for leaving the club.

“It was never explicit at the time…I just had to move on.”

Sargent was in his third and final season at the Bulldogs since debuting in 1986, notching up 19 first grade appearances in that time.

He was competing for a starting place with some of the decade’s biggest names, including Peter Tunks, David Gillespie, Paul Langmack and Paul Dunn (who went on to win the Clive Churchill Medal).

However, he still can’t shake the feeling he would’ve been out there if he wasn’t bound for Newcastle.

“It was the thing in my career I’d earned but never got,” Sargent claimed.

“The only guy on the bench that day with more first grade games than me was Steve Mortimer, and you couldn’t begrudge him getting a run in his final appearance for the club.

“When you’re sitting there having played 13-14 first grade games, and you see a bloke get a run who’s on their third appearance of the year…that was pretty painful.”

While he was destined to have a decorated career in his seven seasons with the Knights, Sargent never got another shot at the big dance.

It’s a statistic that isn’t lost on the former NSW and Australian representative.

“A lot of people who get that opportunity, it’s only once in their career, and for me that was my one chance,” he said.

“I was extremely disappointed on the day, and it’s something you never really let go.

“To this day, I still hate grand final day.”