In the era of million-dollar contracts and a 24/7 media circus, it’s hard to imagine a time where players had jobs and the media were a part of the Clubs themselves.
However, when the nib Newcastle Knights were founded in 1988, this was the landscape they found themselves in.
According to Newcastle Herald journalist Robert Dillon, the foundation-year players all had some sort of occupation outside of football.
“It seems like a long time ago, I guess. It was very different to the modern era,” Dillon told the Our Town Our Team podcast.
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“The players were basically part-time players, they all had day jobs. There were plumbers, sales reps, carpenters, every sort of different trade. Some of them were working as barmen.
“I seem to remember there was one or two of them who were unemployed and claiming the dole, yet they were still playing first grade that year.”
The fact all the players had to operate on their own work schedule made for an interesting training regime, again much different to how things operate today.
“They would do a bit of gym in the morning at 7, then train a few times in the afternoon at maybe 4:30,” Dillon said.
“They seemed to train here there and everywhere, some out at Dudley, some at Windale, some at Passmore Oval, sometimes in at Marathon Stadium.”
Dillon himself was a young journalist at the time and has gone on to closely follow the Club for most of its history as a Newcastle Herald journalist.
He is also the author of Hard Yards: The Story of the Newcastle Knights, one of the best archives of Knights’ history ever compiled.
He is still a regular at Knights media opportunities today, however he enjoyed an incredibly close relationship with the Club in 1988.
“80-90% of the players were from out of town, so guys like myself and Barry Toohey who were there from the start got to know them pretty well because they were eager to make friends when they arrived here,” Dillon said.
“Allan McMahon was a really accommodating and friendly kind of guy, we got on really well with him.
“I can even remember jumping on the team bus coming back from games in Sydney. In fact, I reckon I went down to games in Sydney on the bus before the game.
“You can’t imagine that these days can you, letting the media on the bus with the players.”
The young journalist’s relationship with the team went far beyond pinching a lift home from away games.
“I can remember coming back from the mid-week comp,” he said.
“I jumped on the bus with the guys afterwards and was sitting with Allan McMahon, and they had an esky full of beers.
“So, I was sitting there with Allan and the players having a beer on the bus. They were a great bunch of blokes, and I’m still good mates with most of those guys to this day.”
Having experienced how the Knights have operated across all eras, Dillon has no doubts as to which he looks back on most fondly.
“I think the way they were in 1988, that was actually a good thing,” he said.
“They had to get a job and be a part of the community. They might’ve been on a building site Monday-Friday, then they’d play footy on the weekend.
“Those people would turn up and watch them play, then they’d liaise with their workmates on Monday about how the game went.
“Very different eras, they were a good bunch of blokes back in 1988 and a good bunch of blokes these days as well.”