The Super League War was an incredibly testing time for rugby league as a code.
The game lost a lot as a result, however one moment it gained from the fallout in 1997 was one of the best moments in grand final history.
However, it almost never happened, due to negotiations between Darren Albert and Super League which took place two years prior to the ’97 grand final.
“In ‘95 I was playing reserve grade and it was when the Super League started signing everybody, and they sort of came to me when I wasn’t on a full-time contract and still had to work,” Albert told the Our Town Our Team Podcast.
LISTEN TO THE DARREN ALBERT PODCAST BELOW!
IF YOU'RE READING ON THE APP AND WANT TO LISTEN TO THE PODCAST - CLICK HERE!
“They were flashing money around, so I signed to go to the (Hunter) Mariners.
“At the end of 95/96 I ended up getting out of that contract to stay with the Knights, and co-incidentally ‘97 came around the following year and we had quite a successful year obviously, but I almost missed it.”
With the Knights growing to become a premiership heavyweight in 1995 and 1996, Albert had a realisation that a title was around the corner.
He enlisted the help of a local lawyer in an effort to back out of his Super League deal.
“I had a local lawyer in Newcastle help me out, I couldn’t even tell you the full details,” he said.
“The rest wouldn’t have happened without him.”
“I hadn’t really spoken to the Mariners much about it because it was still quite a long way in the distance, and we hadn’t spent much time talking about it.”
While the lure of a big money move to the rebel competition was enticing, Albert’s growing admiration for the red and blue jersey was what kept him in the ARL.
“It was more a personal decision, we’d had a great year in 95 and I was keen to stay with the Knights, even though I’d seen the dollar signs and wanted to go,” Albert said.
“Being so early in my career and being inexperienced, it was quite an eye-opener.”
In the end, Albert’s terrific form saw him earn a healthy increase to his on-going Knights deal after the Super League affair died down.
“I had all of 96 in first grade before that contract came around, so at that stage they ended up being quite similar, I guess.”