Old Boys Day comes early in 2021 with the nib Newcastle Knights and the Once a Knight Old Boys to mark the 20th anniversary of the 2001 Premiership when the Knights take on the Parramatta Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday, 6 June.
The 2001 Premiership winning team will be the star attraction on match day, following a Gala fundraising event on Saturday 5 June at NEX.
With the Knights and Eels facing off only once during the 2021 National Rugby League season, the Once A Knight Old Boys and the club have worked together to ensure Knights Members and fans have the opportunity to salute one of the greatest Knights teams ever assembled while watching Adam O’Brien’s team do battle against the Eels.
Once a Knight Old Boys President Stephen Crowe says the change was an ideal outcome and would ensure the anniversary celebration could be shared by as many Knights fans as possible.
“The 2001 squad was sublimely talented and their victory was a high water mark in the history of the Knights,” Crowe said.
“Both the Old Boys and the Knights wanted to ensure fans would have the chance to reminisce about the victory, share in the celebrations with the 2001 team and attend one of the marquee games of the year. The June 6 match against the Eels fits the bill perfectly.
“With the Grand Final team coming together in Newcastle for the weekend, we are also organising a gala fundraiser on the night prior to the match.
“I’d encourage anyone who has not secured a ticket to get their hands on one before they sell out. It will be a night to remember.”
Newcastle Knights Chief Executive Officer Philip Gardner said the weekend will be a celebration of one of the most important days, and teams, in the Club’s history.
“Like every Novocastrian, I have very fond memories of the 30th of September 2001,” Gardner said.
“The 2001 team was one of the greatest collections of rugby league talent ever assembled anywhere.
“Our Captain Andrew Johns would go on to become an Immortal and our Hooker Danny Buderus a Hall of Fame Member. Nine of our starting 13 on that day played test football for Australia and 11 of the match day 17 played State of Origin.
“A further three played City Country, while Bill Peden – one of the few with no representative experience – was among the best on field, scoring two tries, and rightfully remains one of the Club’s most popular players ever.
“Led by Head Coach Michael Hagan, it sure was a special group and we are looking forward to celebrating their achievements on Old Boys Weekend.”
Surprisingly given the talent in the team, the Knights of 2001 went into the decider as underdogs, up against an Eels side that had scored a record 839 points during the regular season.
But a first half masterclass from Johns and Ben Kennedy, leading to two tries to Peden and further four pointers to Steve Simpson and Kennedy, saw the Knights head into the sheds leading 24-nil, a mark that remains the biggest ever half-time lead in a Grand Final.
A second half try to Timana Tahu was enough to hold off a spirited resurgence from the Eels, with Johns lifting the trophy thanks to their 30-24 victory.
These feats and more will be celebrated on the day and at the Saturday night gala, which will be attended by the entire 28-man 2001 squad and staff from that year.
Tickets to the Gala, raising money for the Mark Hughes Foundation and the Once a Knight Old Boys, are on sale now with tables of 10 starting at $2,000.
The night, to be co-hosted by Newcastle media identities Mike Rabbitt and Jim Callinan, will celebrate the achievements of the 2001 side and will also feature very special guest entertainment from the era.