What happened to the 17 champion players

1 Robbie O’Davis

Won Clive Churchill Medal as the player of the grand final, and one of only five Knights to also play in the 2001 decider. Retired in 2004 after 223 games. Lives in Newcastle, runs “Change for Change” boot camps and is a process worker for an underground mining group. Still plays C-grade league in Gloucester with brother Glenn, and in charity games for Queensland’s Former Origin Greats.

2 Darren Albert

Entered rugby league folklore with his winning try in the 1997 decider. Played another four years in Newcastle, missing 2001 NRL grand final because of injury, then continued his career in England with four years at St Helens. Returned to NRL in 2006, playing one season for Cronulla. Lives on Gold Coast with wife and two children, working as a maintenance supervisor at Gold Coast Airport.

3 Adam MacDougall

Tackle-busting winger who played in 1997 and 2001 grand final wins. Left in 2003 to join Souths, returning in 2007 for five more years in Newcastle before retiring. Multi-media personality, fitness and nutrition expert and mastermind behind “Man Challenge” weight-loss program and “Man Shake” meal-replacement drinks. Lives at Merewether with wife Belinda and daughters Harlow and Mila.

4 Owen Craigie

Gifted schoolboy athlete who was only 19 when Newcastle saluted in the 1997 grand final. Went on to play another eight seasons, including stints at Wests Tigers, South Sydney and English club Widnes. Lives and works in Newcastle as a gambling counsellor, as an Aboriginal engagement officer for the National Disability Insurance Agency, and does some media work for the NITV-SBS network.

5 Mark Hughes

Grand final win capped fairy-tale first season in first grade. Went on to play 161 games for the Knights, including 2001 decider. Left at end of 2005 for one season in France before retiring. Lives at Merewether with his family and runs his own business. Has fronted the Mark Hughes Foundation, raising funds for brain cancer research, since having a malignant brain tumour removed in 2013.

6 Matthew Johns

Played another three seasons for Newcastle, retiring after one-year stints at English club Wigan (2001) and Cronulla (2002). Now a multi-faceted, multi-talented, multi-media personality, who hosts a twice-weekly television show on Fox Sports and a weekday morning radio program on Sydney’s Triple M. Lives in Sydney with wife Trish and son Cooper. Eldest son Jack plays for Knights under-20s.

7 Andrew Johns

Champion halfback and colourful character who was without peer during record-breaking career at all levels. Won Churchill Medal in 2001 grand final and holds almost every record in the Knights’ books. Retired in 2007 because of a neck injury, then five years later was named league’s eighth “Immortal”. Lives in Sydney, works as a coaching consultant, and calls games for Channel Nine.

8 Tony Butterfield

Founding father of Newcastle pack, and one of four 1988 “originals” to play in 1997 grand final. Retired after 2000 season on 229 games – a club record at the time. Former Knights director and former president of Rugby League Professionals Association. Lives at Dudley with wife and five sons, working as national business manager for Mine Wealth + Wellbeing (formerly AUSCOAL Super).

9 Bill Peden

Cessnock-born utility forward who played 190 games for the Knights, including 2001 grand final victory over Parramatta in which he scored two tries. Went on to play and coach in London, and spent several years in the mid-2000s on the Knights’ support staff as a strength and conditioning coach. Lives at Redhead and works underground as a coal miner at Chain Valley Colliery.

10 Paul Harragon ©

To most Novocastrians he has been the face of the Knights, on and off the field, since the day he hoisted the Optus Cup above his head. Retired midway through 1999 into a TV career on The Footy Show, staying involved at the Knights as a director and chairman. Lives at Dudley with his family. Runs trekking company Wild Spirit Adventures and property investment firm Boss Private Capital.

11 Wayne Richards

Down-to-earth Singleton junior and former NSW Country representative whose 109-game first-grade career included two stints in Newcastle and one each at Illawarra Steelers (1995-96) and South Sydney (1999). Lives at Floraville with his family, and works as a shotfirer at Glendell Coal Mine, a Glencore site at Ravensworth, not far from his old home town.

12 Adam Muir

Former NSW and Australian representative who made his 99th and final appearance for the Knights in the 1997 grand final. Went on to play at North Sydney (1998-99) and Northern Eagles (2000-01) then captained South Sydney in their return to the NRL in 2002. Has spent past eight years working in the underground mining industry. Lives at Blacksmiths with his sons Oskar, Charley and Harry.

13 Marc Glanville

The 1997 grand final was his 188th and final Knights game before winding up career in England with two seasons for Leeds Rhinos, including victory in 1999 Challenge Cup final. Lives in Newcastle with family, works as regional community manager for Alcohol and Drug Foundation, as “sideline eye” at Knights games for KO-FM commentary team, and coaches South Newcastle ladies league tag team.

RESERVES

15 Troy Fletcher

Lakes United back-rower who played 89 games for the Knights between 1996 and 2001. Played 1997 grand final wearing red-and-blue toenail-polish, applied by his sisters. Captain-coached West Rosellas to Newcastle premierships in 2002 and 2004. Lives at Marks Point with wife and two teenage daughters. Works underground in same Chain Valley Colliery crew as team-mate Bill Peden.

16 Scott Conley

One of five players, alongside Darren Albert, Bill Peden, Troy Fletcher and Stephen Crowe, who also played in Newcastle’s premiership-winning 1995 reserve grade team. Played for Gold Coast Chargers in 1998, returning to the Knights in 1999, then finished career playing for Wests in the Newcastle competition. Lives at Kotara and works at Kurri Kurri as an operator for Orica’s quarries division.

18 Lee Jackson

Former Great Britain Test hooker who played 58 games for Newcastle between 1996 and 1998 after a short stint at South Sydney. Returned home to England to continue his career at Leeds Rhinos and Hull FC, then joined semi-professional club York City Knights. Retired at the end of 2005, settling back in his home town of Hull, where he is self-employed as a taxi driver.

19 Stephen Crowe

Alongside Marc Glanville, Tony Butterfield and Paul Harragon, was one of four foundation Knights to play in 1997 grand final. Retired after 1998 season to join club’s administration, filling several roles including media manager, operations manager and interim chief executive during 10 years on staff. Lives in Newcastle and works as Port Stephens Council’s communications and marketing manager.

COACH

Malcolm Reilly

League luminary who won premierships as a player and coach in England and Australia. Returned to Great Britain at the end of 1998 but has been a frequent visitor to Newcastle since then. Lives in a quaint Yorkshire village called Burton Salmon, happily retired but still trains regularly, and follows the fortunes of both Newcastle and Manly – the Australian clubs he either coached or played for.