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Why I rejected Parra, Penrith and Dragons for $10k Knights deal

In 1987, Ash Gordon made history. Not that he knew it at the time.

The Newcastle Knights were poised to enter the NSWRL in 1988 and 10 months before the team was set to gather for pre-season, Gordon was sitting in Newcastle League about to become their inaugural signing.

He signed a three-year-deal at the age of 18.

The first year of his deal was worth $10,000 before increasing to $25,000 in the second year and $35,000 in the final season.



As a bright-eyed rookie, Gordon had never signed a professional deal before, so gifts like signing bonuses were foreign to him.

Aside from etching his name into the history books, he left that meeting with a gift of sorts.

A very small gift.

“By the time I had my first senior year, the Knights came along,” Gordon told The Our Town Our Team podcast.

“I’m glad they thought they’d grab a local player who’d been playing in Newcastle for some time.

“… I had a meeting at the bottom floor of Newcastle Leagues club and what I can remember, the most significant moment ever, I thought they were giving me a gift. There was a logo you could iron onto your shirt. Probably a $2 patch.  

“That was congratulations. Signing a contract was new to me.”

While Gordon will go down in history as the first man to put pen to paper for the Knights, he was a wanted man.

A talented teen running riot in the local Newcastle league, Gordon wasn’t short of options.

“When I was about 15, I made Australian Schoolboys,” Gordon explained.

“I was getting letters from Penrith, Parra and St George. They were earlier clubs showing interest in me.

“I was still living in Newcastle; loving Newcastle and I heard this rumour that a club was going to be forming in Newcastle. I thought, ‘let’s hang around a little bit longer and see if it comes up’ and lucky enough, it did.”

While the Knights were awarded a licence ahead of the 1988 season, Gordon admits he was tempted to accept one of the earlier offers that came his way.

“Parramatta were really kind and showed some real interest in me,” he said.

“Back then, Parramatta were the team. They were a great club and successful club.

“I didn’t watch the Knights because they hadn’t started yet, but I enjoyed living in Newcastle and didn’t want to go just yet.”

In the inaugural season, Gordon played for the under 21s where he scored the first try for the team.

The following season, he made his first-grade debut when former Raider and Roosters fullback Gary Wurth went down with an injury.

“I came off the bench,” he said.

“Gary Wurth got injured in the first 10 minutes. I went on as a fullback but my start on match was against North Sydney where I started as a winger.”

His debut was against the Balmain Tigers.

All 79 kilos of him ran onto a packed ground at home and before he even touched the ball, he was being sprayed by his teammates.

“I remember David Boyd and players abusing me saying; ‘you need to talk, you need to tell us where to go’,” he recalled.

“I was like, ‘what? Wow’. I was stressed that I had to talk because I was playing fullback.

“They were a really intense bunch back then with Boydy and Sarge (Mark Sargent). That was a big eye opener, getting a spray as I ran on.

“My first tackle was on Garry Jack and I got tackled by Wayne Pearce on my first run. I felt bulletproof. I thought I’d run straight into Pearce and god he whacked me hard.”

Listen to more stories from Ash Gordon in the podcast at the top of the page!