Imagine having your premiership ring plucked off your finger.
You’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into a season where it all comes to a head on the grandest stage of them all.
And you conquer the mountain.
You do so, to lift the premiership trophy and claim your small chunk of gold.
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By now, most Knights fans know the touching story of 1997 premiership winner Steve Crowe gifting his ring to Leo Dynevor.
But what isn’t as widely known is the story of the stolen ring.
It’s a story Crowe remembers vividly.
“There were 50,000 people at what is now Wests City, but they weren’t just around the club,” Crowe told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
“It was walking pace from Wallsend to the city, people were on the streets all the way through…it took us an hour and a half to get from Wallsend to Newcastle.
“We had the cavalcade two days later to Civic Park and Town Hall…there was 120,000 people there on a working Tuesday.”
With so many people all desperate for their thirty seconds with the players, the ensuing pandemonium saw hooker Lee Jackson lose his ring amongst the chaos, with many, including Crowe, believing it may have been stolen right off his hand.
“Lee Jackson along the way, you’re high fiving and shaking hands with so many people, thousands of them, and the ring either slipped off or somebody grabbed it,” he said.
Thankfully for Jackson, the competitions’ naming rights sponsor Optus were on hand to provide him with a replacement.
“The sponsors, who were Optus at the time, read his story in the paper and gave him a new one,” Crowe said.
“Then they read my story, how I gave one to Leo (Dynevor), and they gave me another one as well.”
Crowe famously gifted his 1997 premiership ring to Dynevor following the dramatic Grand Final win over Manly.
Dynevor had filled in at halfback for the side in Andrew Johns’ absence throughout the season, playing 19 games (including two semi-finals) and ended the season as the teams’ top point-scorer.
Crowe meanwhile had just five interchange appearances to his name and knew immediately that Dynevor deserved a premiership ring.
“Leo was really disappointed, he certainly deserved one,” he said.
“He played the week before and played 15/16/17 games that year, so I said to him on the field that he could have mine.
“That was my instant reaction when I saw his disappointment, because he definitely deserved one more than me, he definitely deserved one full stop, regardless of where it comes from.”
With festivities well under way in the dressing sheds post-match, Crowe followed through on his promise by pulling Dynevor aside and gifting him his premiership ring.
“There’s all the euphoria and all the champagne’s flowing, I went over to him and said, ‘here’s that ring I spoke to you about. You deserve it more than me’.
“He thanked me for it, but for me I felt like I was still the winner, I got to play in this game, and he didn’t.”
Following Crowe’s incredible act of mateship and unselfishness, the gifting of premiership rings has become somewhat common place in rugby league circles.
A young Canterbury interchange player named Johnathon Thurston gifted his 2004 ring to his injured captain Steve Price, while Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson gave his 2018 and 2019 rings to Lindsay Collins and Zane Tetavano respectively after being forced to cut them from the matchday squads.
For Crowe however, the move was unprecedented, not that the former Knights second rower cares.
“People say it was a big move, but I don’t reckon at all. I got to play in this game, and here’s poor Leo who didn’t,” Crowe said.
“I had a crook neck, I came back and played the last four games in the home and away season and the three semis, so I played maybe seven games, whereas he played double me at halfback and carried us.”