When the Newcastle Knights joined the NSWRL in 1988 it was crucial for the one team city that the club win their first premiership.
They would do so just nine years later in 1997 and a second time in 2001.
Looking back at both Grand Finals, they really should be considered two of the greatest games in the competition’s history.
In 1997 the Newcastle Knights made their first ever Grand Final against a team who they already had a growing rivalry with in defending premiers the Manly Sea Eagles.
The game created a massive buzz in Newcastle with the whole city getting behind the club.
Manly went in to half-time leading 16-8 and stayed in front for the majority of the game.
In the second half Andrew Johns kicked a penalty goal to bring the Knights within a converted try and then with 5 minutes remaining a Robbie O’Davis try and Johns conversion levelled the score at 16 a piece.
The most memorable moment tho was no doubt the finish. With seconds remaining and the scores locked, Andrew Johns scoots down the blind-side, passes to Darren Albert who scores right on the siren and wins the Knights their first ever premiership.
Andrew Johns stated to Wide World of Sports in 2018;
“If there’s one day I could relive over and over and over again, it’s got to be this one,”
CLIVE CHURCHILL MEDAL WINNER: Robbie O’Davis
You voted, we listened! The greatest ever Knights XIII 💪
— Newcastle Knights (@NRLKnights) April 17, 2020
The 2001 grand final isn’t spoken about as much in the larger Rugby League community which is a shame as the game itself was like nothing we had ever seen before in a grand final.
To this day, the Parramatta Eels of 2001 are statistically the best regular season team of the NRL era, and they were the side standing between the Knights and premiership glory.
The unthinkable would then happen as underdogs the Newcastle Knights would head into halftime leading 24-0.
In the second half the minor premiers would fight back by emulating Newcastle’s first half by scoring 24 points, however a try and penalty goal for the boys in red and blue sealed the Eels’ fate and gifted the Newcastle Knights their second premiership.
Years down the track Knights second-rower Ben Kennedy recalled;
‘‘They came into the game under a shitload of pressure but for us, it was just a good time and a heap of fun. Parra were shitting themselves and we were having a good time”
Parramatta Captain also reflected on the game saying;
“It was disappointing for us, and it took a long time to get into another grand final . We’d had a good season, and just wanted to stick to what we had done, and what worked for us so well. We didn’t change too much and just looked at it as if it were another game of football. Newcastle just played out of their skins”
CLIVE CHURCHILL MEDAL WINNER: Andrew Johns