THE fans have spoken, votes have been counted, and the list of contenders for the first inductees to the Newcastle Knights Hall of Fame have been trimmed to 25.
Ten Australian internationals, two from New Zealand, a former All Black, five players who played State of Origin but did not represent their country, three coaches, and a record-setting player better known for his achievements as club chairman, are on the shortlist as voted by readers of the Newcastle Herald and online at theherald.com.au.
Foundation coach, the late Allan McMahon, was included with Malcolm Reilly (1997) and Michael Hagan (2001), who guided the Knights to their two premiership triumphs.
Mark Hughes, Adam MacDougall, Andrew Johns, Robbie O’Davis and Bill Peden, the only men to play in both grand final wins, are among the top 25.
Johns, older brother Matthew, MacDougall, O’Davis, present chief executive Matt Gidley, Paul Harragon, Ben Kennedy, Adam Muir, Steve Simpson and the Knights’ first Kangaroo, Mark Sargent, all represented Australia and played State of Origin during their Knights careers.
Hagan, Hughes, Darren Albert, Tony Butterfield and Robbie McCormack were Origin representatives. Albert, Butterfield and Marc Glanville were teammates alongside O’Davis, Hughes, MacDougall, the Johns brothers, Harragon, Peden and Muir when the Knights stunned Manly to win the 1997 ARL grand final.
Every eligible member of the Knights’ 20-year team named in 2007 made the final 25. Players and coaches still in the NRL were not eligible, ruling out Buderus, Tahu and Kurt Gidley, who were named in that 20-year team.
O’Davis, Hughes, Simpson, MacDougall, Peden, Andrew Johns, Kennedy, Tahu and Paul Marquet were the eligible members from the 2001 premiers to make the cut.
The club’s close ties with New Zealand were recognised by the inclusion of foundation skipper Sam Stewart, fellow Kiwi international Tony Kemp and former All Black John Schuster.
Ashley Gordon, the first player signed, and foundation five-eighth Rob Tew made the final 25.
Tew played seven games in the club’s foundation year, securing a place as their first points scorer by kicking two penalty goals in their 28-4 loss to Parramatta on opening day.
But he became better known in the past two years as the man who played hardball in negotiations with Nathan Tinkler, securing the club’s future with a $20million bank guarantee before signing off on documents to hand the billionaire the keys to the castle.
When the Hall of Fame was launched three weeks ago, selection committee spokesman and former Knights chairman Michael Hill said contributions on and off the field would be considered.
The selection committee of Hill, Leigh Maughan, Allan Bell, Mike Rabbitt and Brett Keeble will assess the merits of the 25 candidates and select a top 10 to be named in the Herald on March 16, when the Knights host Brisbane.
The first four inductees, voted from the top 10, will be announced at the Hall of Fame dinner at Wests Leagues Club on April 4.