Written by Callum Walker
One of the most talented hookers to grace Super League, the late Terry Newton began his career at Leeds Rhinos, debuting in 1996 aged 17. A year later he was a regular first-teamer for the West Yorkshire club, playing 26 games in 1997.
Wigan-born Newton became a key cog in Leeds’ wheel in the early part of his career, helping to guide the Rhinos to a Grand Final in 1998 – which they lost to Wigan – as well as the 1999 Challenge Cup Final – which they won. And, so at 20 years of age, the hooker had his first and only taste of silverware.
At the end of 1999, Newton moved to hometown club Wigan. After making 86 appearances and scoring six tries for Leeds in four seasons, the hooker had his heart set on joining the Warriors. The hard-hitter was at Wigan for the best part of his career, scoring 74 tries in 185 appearances over a period of six seasons.
Playing through the pain barrier for most of 2003 – having needed an operation on his knee – the hooker was rewarded with his efforts with an inclusion in that year’s Super League Dream Team.
Though Newton excelled at Wigan, he failed to add any more winners’ medals to the one won in 1999 with Leeds. He and the Warriors appeared in three Grand Finals in his time at the club – 2000, 2001 and 2003 – but lost all three.
The hooker’s career was far from straight forward and he left Wigan in a bizarre three-club transfer which involved St Helens and Bradford as well as Wigan player Micky Higham. Newton signed for Bradford with Higham going the other way.
Saints would not sell Higham to Wigan so Bradford stepped in and bought Higham from Saints for £70,000 and then immediately released him to Wigan. In exchange, Wigan allowed Newton to join Bradford.
The former Wigan man was a consistent performer for the Bulls in his four seasons at Odsal, but failed to make any major final. In 90 games, Newton scored 27 tries before leaving at the end of 2009 when his contract expired.
Wakefield was the hooker’s next destination, a move that turned sour rather quickly. Newton played just two games before being banned in February 2010 Newton for two years by the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD) after failing a drug test on in late November 2009. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Trinity cancelled the hooker’s contract and so, at the age of 31, Newton’s Rugby League career was over.
As a result, Newton became a pub licensee to provide for his two daughters.
Tragically, the former Leeds, Wigan, Bradford and Wakefield hooker was found dead at a home in the Orrell district of Wigan in late September 2010. It was a loss that the sport continues to mourn today.
In the 2010 Grand Final, Wigan dedicated their victory over St Helens to Newton. First try-scorer Martin Gleeson pointed to a wristband that said RIP in Terry’s honour.
“My wristband said RIP, for Terry,” he said later. “We were very close. What happened is a tragedy and this is for him and his family. A few of us here were very close to him and this one is in his memory as much as anything.
“It was a very emotional game for me, the most emotional I’ve ever played in. On the one hand I’m so happy to be on the winning side, but I was thinking about him a lot during the game. We’ve got about eight or nine Wiganers in this team, so it is the ultimate final for a lot of us. I’m just so glad we won for Terry as much as us though.”
The late great was only one of five players to have played in every season of Super League by 2010 and had earned 15 caps for Great Britain and three for England whilst at Leeds, Wigan and Bradford, debuting for the Lions at just 19 years of age.
A special character on and off the field, Newton was in the mould of the old-style hookers. Weighing 100kg and standing at 5 ft 10, he was aggressive, tough and hard. No one dared pick a fight with him and rightly so; an absolute demon on the field, yet a quiet character off it, he is sorely missed by all those associated with Rugby League.