Go back to the beginning of Rugby League in Australia, all the way back to 1908, and you will see the presence of Newcastle in the very first season of premiership football. While the region did not field in the top flight again until 1988 after that initial two-season foray, the area was, and always will be, one of the code’s greatest hotbeds.
These people know their Rugby League and they love it with a passion. Newcastle is a Rugby League city with diehard fans and a thirst for success. They haven’t always had that success, though, so when the chips are down and the victories aren’t coming, they turn their attention to the players wearing the red and blue jersey.
Larger-than-life icons like the Johns brothers, enforcer Paul Harragon and the recently retired Danny Buderus. They were the best of their eras at what they did, but they were more than that – more than the money or the premierships. They symbolised the understanding between the people of Newcastle and their football team. Forget the legends for a moment and remember players like Billy Peden, Marc Glanville, Matt Parsons and Tony Butterfield. It doesn’t matter if your name is Johns or Parsons; the fans know you have done your bit.
Fast forward to the Knights of today and the car wreck that has become 2014. The debilitating, life-altering injury to Alex McKinnon, the Nathan Tinkler ownership debacle and now the early exit of supercoach Wayne Bennett has left fans exhausted.
Bennett brought with him a cavalcade of new players, including the likes of Jeremy Smith, Beau Scott, Adam Cuthbertson, Willie Mason, Kade Snowden and Joey Leilua. But no player has stolen as many headlines in his short stay in the legendary steel city as Darius Boyd.
With Bennett now on his way to the Broncos, Boyd is expected to follow suit and attempt to join his beloved mentor in Queensland’s capital. And who could blame Novocastrians if they shrugged their shoulders when media reports suggested the maligned custodian has already activated a get-out clause in his deal.
For all his talent, Boyd is the furthest thing away from what makes Newcastle great. Yes, this is a modern sporting world and money is in the eye of the beholder, but there is still something in the Hunter that makes them truly still a football club rather than a “franchise”.
How can Knights fans support a player that is so clearly there for other reasons and can’t even stomach another year at the club without Wayne Bennett?
This is the same man who refuses to give anything to the media, who in turn feed the public, who then come back to buy the merchandise, game day tickets and essentially pay Boyd’s wages. The only real winner in all of this is Boyd. And the losers? Yep, you guessed it: the fans. This is the same man who almost didn’t get off a team bus at Brookvale Oval prior to a game earlier this year because he hadn’t been paid on time. Some might say fair enough. Others would argue that the rest of the team had gotten off the bus and they had an obligation to the supporters.
Is it any wonder that Boyd’s three best performances this season didn’t come in the red and blue, but in the maroon of Queensland at State of Origin level?
Surely Boyd’s future can’t be at the Broncos, who will boast Ben Barba, Josh Hoffman and Anthony Milford for 2015. So the question remains, where to now for Boyd?
Boyd’s tenure at Newcastle is coming to a close and there is a real challenge now ahead of him without the warm embrace of Bennett to get him through the tough times.
At Newcastle, the days will roll on like they always have. The imposing figure of ‘Chief’ Harragon is still there; so is the sheer talent of Andrew Johns and Matthew Johns; as is the remnants of blood in the turf spilt by hundreds of Knights players that came before Boyd.
Life goes on in Newcastle – and probably for the better.
Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!