Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
2 days ago
The stats aren?t pretty. Three and a half NRL matches, four weeks of suspensions and one send off. Throw in a punch up, the breaking of a rival?s nose and a few dubious headshots, just for good measure. Oh, and let?s not forget his sledging of the Brisbane Broncos either, when Test enforcer Shane Webcke became ?Fatso?, ?soft? and a ?coward? for a night. Starting to get the picture? You should be. Not that Dale Newton would care.
The 20-year-old Cronulla Sharks prop forward burst onto the rugby league scene in his side?s Round 19 clash with the New Zealand Warriors eight weeks ago, and has since emerged as the NRL?s latest bad boy.
It?s a title that sits comfortably with Newton, who spent more time on the sidelines this season counting high tackles than he did out in the middle making them.
But let?s go back to Round 21, when the Sharks took on the Broncos, and Dale Newton head-butted Brisbane fans for the first time.
In a 50-minute display of abnormally aggressive, and quite frankly, scary behaviour, the young tearaway bruised and bullied a Broncos forward pack filled with Test and Origin stars. By fulltime, his name was on everybody?s lips and, in the case of some Broncos diehards, their punching bags.
Indeed, it was a swinging arm to the melon of former Kangaroo Brad Meyers that had tongues wagging. The incident, which left Meyers with a drunken slur and an interesting shaped nose, outraged Brad, his Brisbane teammates and fans alike ? and not just because it was cosmetic damage the Broncos giant could do without.
To Sharks supporters though, it signalled the birth of the type of hitman the Sutherland Shire franchise had been trying to poach from other clubs for years.
Either way, Dale Newton had arrived. Well, at least until his new friend, NRL judiciary chairman Jim Hall, caught up with him.
Jim sat patiently as Dale, doing justice to the time honoured tradition of front rowers telling porkies, tried to explain that it was actually the footy hitting Brad in the face that gave him the broken snoz.
The piece of flesh resembling an arm that Jim saw lodged inside Brad?s head on tele, well sir, that was just a technical difficulty the cameras were having at the time.
To Dale?s disbelief, Jim didn?t buy it. Come to think of it, not many did.
A two-week holiday was handed out, with Jim suggesting that next time they ran into each other, Dale should avoid any further pre-judicial strategic sessions with Blocker, MG, Spud, Chief and Co.
But Brisbanites, don?t be too harsh on Dale, after all, he is a Queenslander.
In fact, the former Redcliffe Dolphins star only ended up in Sydney because there wasn?t a place for him at the Broncos. Which might explain the extra ?oomph? in his tackles when the two sides met. Newton admits as much.
?I don?t hold anything against the Broncos, but I guess I did have a bit of a point to prove when we played them,? he grins. ?I certainly wanted to have a big game, but that may have been just because they are the Broncos and they have a host of big-name players.?
In the world of professional rugby league, unspoken commandments exist between players out in the middle. When you?re a rookie forward, it normally pays to follow them.
However, following the Broncos clash, Newton stood accused of committing the greatest sin of them all: Thou shalt not disrespect thy elders. The Sharks firebrand readily concedes his guilt.
?Why should I show respect?? asks Newton, his eyes intensifying.
?I?m not going to be intimidated or hold back out there, just because some guys have bigger profiles and have played the game longer.?
Newton could be forgiven for taking a more cautious approach to his football. After all, it?s commonplace for rookie front rowers in the NRL to take months, sometimes years, to build the confidence to start dishing it out to seasoned veterans.
But Newton is a fearless type with the 10-foot tall and bulletproof mentality that the game depends on for entertainment.
?Reputations mean nothing to me, because you?re only as good as your last game,? he reasons.
?The challenge of competing with the best players, and coming out on top, is a big part of why I play this game.?
Comparing sport with war is an analogy frowned upon by most sports commentators. It?s a despised clich? that is hard to justify ? war is a matter of life and death, sport is not. But to Newton, there is no better way to describe the emotions he feels when he emerges from the player?s tunnel each weekend.
?Football is my battlefield,? he explains with a shrug. ?There is not a tougher body contact sport in the world. It?s the closest thing to war you will find.?
It?s an attitude that ensures Newton will never be far from the action, for good or for worse, depending on which team you support.
The young hulk concedes he plays the game hard, and incidents like the Meyers tackle are bound to happen. But don?t expect him to apologise.
?When you play the game, you know you are going to get hurt, and you know that you are going to hurt others,? he defends. ?It?s just part of it. I don?t like too many people on the field. I certainly don?t feel bad about it.?
So is this guy mad?
Well, if you ask Dale, the answer is a big, fat?yes.
?I think I am a loose cannon to be honest,? he says, flashing an evil smile. ?I?m a lot different off the field, but when I?m playing I probably am a bit crazy.?
If you?re thinking Dale spent his youth watching too many questionable 80?s action movies, you?re not far off the mark. In fact, the affable rogue admits that if influences were worn on your sleeve, his would be filled with an endless list of moustache-wearing Hollywood villains.
?The bad guy was always my favourite,? Newton laughs.
?What?s that saying?? he asks curiously, his eyes lighting up.
?Which one?? I reply, unsure of which direction he wanted to go.
?You know, the one about the nice guys,? he says, his mind working overtime.
?Nice guys finish last?? I offer.
?Yeah, that one,? he laughs again, leaning back in his chair with a relieved grin.
?Nice guys finish last. That?s what I reckon.?
It?s hard to disagree with this young warrior. Not that I?d want to.