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Newcastle Knights versus Hunter Mariners

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10th December, 2020

The infamous ARL versus Super League war in 1997 saw the competition split in two.

It was very well known both competitions needed the Newcastle Knights to gain the edge in the war.

What side did Newcastle pick? ARL.

How did it come to that? Well, we shall cross that bridge when we get there.

Just to clear the air here, this isn’t an article based on some ridiculous dream match between the Knights and the Mariners.

With the Super League’s failure to win the Newcastle Knights, the Hunter Mariners were formed. The Mariners, who were owned by Wests at the time, were aiming for a lot of the 1996 Newcastle Knights squad.


Here’s who they recruited from Newcastle: Keith Beauchamp, Stuart Collins, Brad Godden, Brett Kimmorley, Robbie McCormack and Paul Marquet.

Not bad for bunch of locals but think about who else they wanted.

Who else were they aiming for? A fair new more from Newcastle Knights – names such as Andrew Johns, Matthew Johns and Paul Harragon among a few others, including Robbie O’Davis.

Andrew Johns smiles as he's presented to Newcastle fans in 2017

Andrew Johns (Tony Feder/Getty Images)

Offers much bigger than the salary they had at the time, a new team and a new competition couldn’t take them away from the fans and town they loved.

Staying loyal to the ARL, the Newcastle Knights produced the famous 1997 ARL grand final win against Manly. Imagine that 1997 side without those big names.

As I mentioned before, both the ARL and Super League needed the Newcastle Knights, who were the key element of the war. Whoever won Newcastle would win the war.

For the record, had Newcastle picked Super League, ARL would have lost and if ARL lost, the competition would have folded.


As for Super League, even winning the war would have seen them fold due to the fact it was essentially Brisbane-owned for the Broncos.

Hunter Mariners

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

This is the story of how Newcastle made their allegiance to the ARL. With commanding offers from both sides of the table and with the bigger one from the Super League, both sides needed Newcastle.

The legendary Knights captain Paul Harragon went to Sydney to listen to both offers and after much consideration chose to remain loyal to the ARL.

So what happened in 1997? We all know about their famous grand final win. An unknown fact is the Knights were pretty bankrupt so the prize money was helpful.

Following the ending of both competitions, the ARL emerged as victors, called peace with the Super League and both merged to form the NRL.

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Now let’s backtrack: the Chief was the one who chose Newcastle to remain in the ARL, and with the Super League already an inevitable disaster, he chose wisely.

This means Paul Harragon is the one who saved the ARL and is the reason why the NRL exists.