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It’s been 20 years since the Newcastle Knights took out their first NRL Grand Final – and for many Novocastrians, the last seven seconds of play, when Andrew Johns threw a pass to Darren Albert breaking the 16-16 deadlock, are some of the best moments of footy ever played.
In 2017, many of these former teammates banded together for an even tougher mission – walking to Everest Base Camp for the Mark Hughes Foundation raising funds to fight brain cancer.
Mark Hughes, or ‘Hughesy’, was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2013, underwent an operation to remove a malignant tumour and completed 33 radiation sessions in six months. Realising the lack of awareness and research devoted to this deadly disease, Hughesy established the Mark Hughes Foundation.
To celebrate the 97’ dream team coming together for a test of endurance, courage and mateship, we’ve found out what some of the former players – and now Everest trekkers – are up to.
The captain of the 97 Knights team, Paul ‘Chief’ Harragon retired from NRL in 1999 and went on to begin a TV career with The Footy Show. Staying local, Chief lives at Dudley, works closely with the Novocastrian-bourne nib and runs his own trekking company, as well as a property investment firm.
The 97 Grand Final was the perfect finisher for Hughesy’s inaugural first-grade season and he went on to play 161 games for the Knights, until 2005 when he left to play in France. Hughesy now lives in Merewether with his wife and three children and spends a lot of his time working with the Mark Hughes Foundation to find a cure for brain cancer.
After the 97 Grand Final, Matty Johns played another three seasons for the Knights before trying his luck in England for a season and then with the Cronulla Sharks. Now living in Sydney, he has forged a media career, hosting shows on Fox Sports and Triple M.
Retiring in 1998, Stephen remained strongly tied to the Knights, working with the club for another decade in its administration team. Currently living in Newcastle, he now works with the Port Stephen’s Council.
Billy continued to play a total of 190 games for Newcastle Knights and, once he retired, worked as a strength and conditioning coach for the team. Billy lives and works locally in Newcastle.
To find out more about brain cancer visit the Mark Hughes Foundation website and explore The Check Up for all the latest updates, including the full documentary of the team’s trek to Everest in support of the Mark Hughes Foundation.