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Sacked on the spot! Inside the Knights’ first season

Welcome to the Newcastle Knights, the latest professional rugby league club set to enter the NSWRL.

This is a Club where if you walk at training, you’ll be fired on the spot.

A Club where everyone gets an opportunity but only those with the right attitude and work ethic will survive.



It’s 1987 and word goes out to all the senior rugby league clubs around country NSW that the Knights are holding open trials.

Send us your best and brightest, they were told.

So, carloads of hopefuls descended on Newcastle.

The open trials saw hundreds of willing players audition before the Club settled on 150 men.

Of those 150, some had contracts.

The likes of Ashley Gordon signed on a three-year-deal, but most, like a lanky 18-year-old Steve Crowe received a little more than an opportunity to train.

“They invited any kid with any ability from Newcastle and anyone from the country. Any club got to send any player they thought were up for a trial,” Crowe recalled.

“There were blokes from Sydney as well. There were a couple of weekends worth. There might have been five or six games and then people were invited back and it went on and on.

“it went for about a month and the last ones standing were invited to train in that first summer.

“I think there were about 150 in that first off-season of training. That was first grade, reserve grade and under 21s and we all trained together as a club and then it got whittled down.

“Blokes dropped out because it was too tough. Blokes got culled because they were cutting corners. Allan McMahon set a really strong benchmark.”

In establishing a hard-working culture built on digging deep and not cutting corners, the inaugural Knights coach was ruthless and uncompromising when it came to the standards he’d set.

“I remember we used to run Blackbutt reserve, 10k time trials, they were torture,” Crowe continued.

“You’d never do that now. (McMahon) used to hide in the bushes on dead mans hill to see if someone was walking and if you did, he’d come thundering down and sack blokes on the spot.

“Blokes would get cut from the club because they were caught walking up dead man’s hill.

“That’s the culture the club was built on. That was the standard that was set. So, for an 18-year-old skinny kid, it was a fantastic introduction to adulthood and professional football.”

While Crowe would go on to win a premiership with the Knights in 1997, his career as a first grader was far from guaranteed.

As history shows, Crowe survived the pre-season and gained a contract.

He put pen to paper alongside 2001 premiership winner Paul Marquet.

“We got a scholarship for $1500,” he said.

“That was for us, a sign that the club was willing to back us and that we’ve got a future. That was the moment that I thought, I might give this a crack.”