STARS: Newcastle Knights trio Jaron Purcell, Bradman Best and Max Buderus ahead of Saturday’s Harold Matthews Cup final. Picture: Simone De Peak
It has been two decadessince the Newcastle Knights won their maiden first grade grand final.
None of the players in the club’s Harold Matthews Cup squadwere even born.
But at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday the Knights’ under-16 side will line upagainst the same opposition, the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, and try to emulate the feats from that famed September afternoon in 1997.
Newcastle coach Mark Morrissey has been providing the youngsters with a few history lessons, including images of Paul “Chief” Harragon’s run-in with John Hopoate and video of Darren Albert’s memorable match-winning try, but it will be the impact of two former champions that resonates with the current crop.
Matthew Johns, who played in both of the club’s premierships, and Danny Buderus, who was involved in just the later 2001 triumph, will present thesquad with their jerseys in the dressing sheds before the state juniordecider.
“All of these kids weren’t even born back then,” Morrissey said.
“There’s a bit of history there that we’re using as motivation to try and get them home.
“And to have both Matty [Johns] and Danny [Buderus] both there will be a special moment for the kids and something they will remember for a long time.”
And it comes at a time when the club’s NRL team are languishing at the bottom of the ladder, despite improved performances, following back-to-back wooden spoons.
“It’s a glimmer of hope and light out there for fansthat look at the future and development,” Morrissey said.
“We are developing future first graders and there is a future here at the Newcastle Knights, we just have to hold onto them.”
Three of the key elements to an undefeated 2017 campaign have been skipper Jaron Purcell, fullback Bradman Best and Max Buderus, nephew of former Australian hooker Danny.
Purcell and Best were also part of last year’s Newcastle squad that lost the grand final.
The NSW under-16 squad will be named after theshowdown.
Kick-off is 11am.
Cronulla and Parramatta meet in the SG Ball decider.
NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS: 1Bradman Best2Maile J Townsend3Darcy Heaney4Cooper Jenkins5Patrick Achurch6Max Buderus7Kobe Davies8Thomas Affleck9Mitch Black10Christian Ma’anaima11Riley Meyn12Harry Croker13 Jaron Purcell (c)14Ryan Potts 15 Tyler Doney16Ben Olsen17Sione Tuitupou Kutu18Trentham Petersen19Blake Layton20Harry Whitfield23Jack Jackson.