Newcastle Herald head of sport Robert Dillon has released a new book on the history of the Knights, entitled: Hard Yards

IT probably kicked off, in earnest, around this time last year.

I received a call from former Knights chairman Michael Hill, who phones me from time to time, usually to discuss important issues like the footy, or the cricket.

COLLECTOR'S ITEM: Newcastle Herald journalist Robert Dillon has written a book documenting the history of the Knights, from 1988 to 2017. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

COLLECTOR'S ITEM: Newcastle Herald journalist Robert Dillon has written a book documenting the history of the Knights, from 1988 to 2017. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

At the end of the conversation, I mentioned that I had been meaning to contact him, so he’d saved me a call.

“I’m planning to write a book about the Knights,” I told him. “I was hoping we might sit down and have a chat so I can pick your brain about the foundation years.”

It was convenient timing. Michael’s wife, Anne, was overseas and he was “baching” it, so he was happy to have some company. He invited me around for dinner – one of the many meals Anne thoughtfully cooked and left for him in the freezer – and over a refreshment or two we reminisced about the formation and early years of the club that would become the heart and soul of a community.

Twelve months later, the project is complete.

Hard Yards: The Story of the Newcastle Knights is now on the shelves in a host of newsagents around the region, as well as various Fairfax Media outlets, including the Newcastle Herald. My intention was to produce a definitive chronology of the club’s first 30 seasons, from the years leading up to the Knights’ inaugural crusade, until the end of 2017.

It’s surely long overdue.

A former Herald colleague and mentor of mine, Neil Jameson, wrote an outstanding memoir of the Knights’ early years entitled Our Town Our Team, published in 1992. But for whatever reason there has been nothing since, other than the autobiographies of champion Newcastle players Paul Harragon, Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus.

I felt it was time for a point of reference for the Knights’ tens of thousands of fans: a history incorporating every season, every player, every win, every loss, every high and every low. 

I also felt it was important to do so in conjunction with the Newcastle Herald, rather than a specialist publisher of books, because this paper has been with the Knights every step of the way.

The whole process took longer than expected. It’s been a learning curve, but an enjoyable one.

Along the way I was reminded that over the course of 30 seasons, there has rarely been a dull moment.

HARD YARDS: The Story of the Newcastle Knights. 240 pages, $39.95. Available from nextra group newsagents (Westfield Kotara, Cessnock, Warners Bay Plaza, Stockland Glendale, Marketown, Mount Hutton, Mayfield, Hamilton and Raymond Terrace), online from theherald.mybigcommerce.com, and the Herald’s reception desk at 28 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle.