Newcastle rugby: Hamilton centre battles through chronic condition to notch century and fifth premiership in style

MILESTONE MAN: Patty Kilmurray (black headgear) celebrates with Hamilton temmates at full-time. The Hawks' grand final win doubled as the centre's 100th first-grade game. Picture: Marina Neil

MILESTONE MAN: Patty Kilmurray (black headgear) celebrates with Hamilton temmates at full-time. The Hawks' grand final win doubled as the centre's 100th first-grade game. Picture: Marina Neil

PATTY Kilmurray struggles to get out of bed most mornings.

Contact sport should be a no-go zone.

The Hamilton centre has Psoriatic arthritis. A chronic condition, he gets severe stiffness and inflammation, mainly in the neck and shoulders.

“I have had it for a few years but this year has been torture,” he said. “I have to get my missus to put my socks on each morning. Every day before I play or train I have to go to a basketball court, walk some laps and shoot hoops. Eventually, I get going. It feels almost like an all-day warm up for me. By 3pm the engine is finally ready to go.”

Kilmurray was firing on all cylinders in the Hawks’ gritty 20-12 win over Maitland in the grand final on Saturday.

Playing his 100th and possibly last first-grade game, Kilmurray was among the Hawks’ best. He carried the ball over the ad-line constantly and, along with Kirisome Laulala, contained Maitland danger men Carl Manu and Chris Logan.

“Patty was awesome,” Hamilton coach Scott Coleman said. “Whenever he got the ball, he had numbers of him. His footwork and leg drive gets him through every time. He gets us that front-foot ball and he always gets a quick recycle too. And his defence. He nullified their danger man.”

Kilmurray made his debut in 2011 and Saturday’s victory marked his fifth premiership, following success in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

“There is a point where I have to start thinking about my health,” he said. “I can’t keep bashing myself every week. I’ll be a cripple again tonight. I’m not getting much relief from the medication. The doctor said with this arthritis, contact sport and lifting weights are not things I should be doing. I dare say that was probably my last game.”

Kilmurray’s father Peter presented his jersey on Saturday morning. His brother-in-law Pete Maxwell played openside breakaway.

“To bring up 100 first grade games in a grand final,” Kilmurray said. “Pete and I say before each game, this might be the last one we play together so soak it up. He is a freak of nature.

“Everyone has been on edge all week. Four in a row hasn’t been done in a long time. The last couple of years, there has been a lot of emotion. This year everyone was so focused to get the job done. It was like going to work. We picked up our bag, walked over here, everyone got strapped and we knew exactly what we were going to do.”

It was a different milestone of sorts for teammate Dane Sherratt.

In his fourth year in Newcastle but first at Hamilton, the South African fly-half won his first premiership in 20 years of rugby.

“I won a cup final at home with Durbell, but nothing like this,” he said.

Sherratt scored a try, kicked three from three and landed a field goal for good measure.

“That was my first  ever field goal,” he said. “I thought we were struggling a bit in the first half and needed to come away with some points.  It was never going to be an easy match and I’m glad we stuck it out.”