Newcastle Knights National Rugby League Grand Final Victory
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle—Parliamentary Secretary) [10.34 a.m.]: It was a privilege for me, in the company of the Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development and the honourable member for Wallsend, to congratulate the Newcastle Knights on their stunning victory in the National Rugby League [NRL] premiership on Sunday 30 September when they defeated the gallant Parramatta team by a score of 30 to 24. I commiserate with Brian Smith, Nathan Cayless and the Parramatta team but thank them for a stunning end to a brilliant year.
The Parramatta team were the minor premiers and they displayed absolute brilliance all year in attack and defence. However, 30 September was undoubtedly a night for the Knights. Their half-time lead of 24 to nil indicated clearly to everyone—regardless of whether they supported the Knights—that this was a premiership-winning team. I compliment Parramatta on its fightback in the second half, but the Knights players, under the captaincy of Andrew Johns, were absolutely determined to win the premiership that they so richly deserved.
It is important to recognise and to put on record all the players in the Knights grand final squad. The team comprised Robbie O'Davis, Timana Tahu, Adam MacDougall—who is known as Mad Dog—Mark Hughes, Matthew Gidley, Sean Rudder, Andrew Johns, Bill Peden, Steve Simpson, Ben Kennedy, Josh Perry, Danny Buderus, Matt Parsons, Glenn Grief, Daniel Abraham, Paul Marquet and Clinton O'Brien, and coach, Michael Hagan—whom I particularly compliment on guiding his team to victory in his first year as a premiership coach. The result indicated clearly Michael's astute understanding of the game, the capabilities of his players and the strengths of the opposition. He devised a game plan that absolutely stunned the Parramatta team—there is no other way to describe it.
I also compliment Billy Peden, the club captain, who scored two tries in the grand final. It would be difficult to find a finer club player in rugby league. Bill's unselfish play throughout his career was rewarded in the grand final. I must also mention Paul Marquet, who retired after the game and who has shown tremendous loyalty to Newcastle. I compliment the forwards on their strong play throughout the game, particularly Matt Parsons and Glenn Grief, who are leaving the team. I must mention also the brilliant play of Robbie O'Davis.
I compliment the Newcastle Knights board, chairman Michael Hill and chief executive officer Ian Bonnett on the obvious strength of their administration in the lead-up to this year's grand final. Andrew John's winning of the Clive Churchill medal was a further accolade to his acknowledged brilliance as both a captain and player. Fittingly, Andrew Johns, Matthew Gidley, Ben Kennedy, Danny Buderus and Adam MacDougall were immediately included in the Australian Rugby League touring squad, and it is great to see that that tour will now go ahead.
The win lifted the spirits of the people of Newcastle and increased confidence in the city during a troubled time, both nationally and internationally. I compliment Newcastle City Council on the wonderful welcome they gave to the Knights on the Wednesday following the game when some 80,000 people turned out to welcome the Knights home and to congratulate them on their fantastic win. In the early hours of the day following the grand final, at 3.00 a.m., some 15,000 people went to Marathon Stadium to welcome the team home. At the end of the grand final Andrew Johns told the fans that they deserved a new stadium, and there is no doubt about that. That has been worked on for some years, both through the ISC trust, the Knights, the Premier's Department and the local members. I am sure there will be a positive outcome to those negotiations. I compliment and congratulate the Knights, and I join in the celebration of a wonderful victory.
Mr FACE (Charlestown—Minister for Gaming and Racing, and Minister Assisting the Premier on Hunter Development) [10.39 a.m.]: On this occasion I should reply with some gusto. I thank the honourable member for Newcastle for his chivalrous dissertation on this occasion. On the way down to the game, accompanied by my erstwhile colleague the honourable member for Wallsend, I was asked by 2GB what I thought would be the effects of the two-hour extension of trading. And, naturally, I was asked who would win. I said "Coming from the Hunter, naturally I would like the Knights to win. But I have to confess that I had been an Eels supporter until the Knights entered the competition, and I was a little bit torn." I said I thought the Eels on their form were slight favourites, but if the Knights got on top in the first 20 minutes there would be no stopping them. People sitting with me at the game said I was right, that I must have had a crystal ball, because that is exactly what happened.
It is true to say that the celebrations have been going on ever since. The win has given another great lift to the Hunter and it is another case of a region pulling together in a way that is probably the envy of other regions throughout Australia. The celebrations went on for some time and they have been followed recently by the most successful Australian Masters Games, which provided another opportunity during the past week for us to party with the rest of Australia and people from New Zealand and Papua and New Guinea. It has been a tumultuous time in the region. I will not repeat what an Eels supporter sitting next to the honourable member for Wallsend told him to do at the end of the game when he kept interrupting and jumping up and down. It probably would not be parliamentary for me to say what she said to him, though he took it good faith. As I say, the win and the celebrations are a wonderful example of a region coming together. Go the Knights!