Terry Newton was the first-ever cover star of Thirteen in 2005. He went on to cement his reputation as one of Super League’s toughest-ever characters, but was banned for testing positive to human growth hormones in early 2010 while a Wakefield player. In September, in news that stunned the League world, Newton was found hanging at his Orrell home. The sport is still recovering from his loss.
This interview was published in the summer of 2005 with Newton playing for Wigan.
Terry, we’ve interviewed Graham Murray elsewhere in this issue. What are your memories of him and your time at Leeds?
Graham Murray is one of the best coaches I’ve ever played under. He came in and changed the Leeds side around and we made the Grand Final that year and then won the Challenge Cup Final the next. So my memories of Graham and that time are pretty good; with the Challenge Cup Final in 1999 being the best memory.
How did the move to Wigan come about? Were you frustrated that, in 1999, you weren’t getting a full game after the signing of Lee Jackson?
I’d always wanted to play for Wigan at some point in my career but I didn’t think it would come so soon. As for Lee Jackson, that didn’t really play a part. It was working, it was good for the team and we had no complaints.
The Grand Final losses have obviously been pretty devastating. Which is the one that holds the most painful memories insofar as the one you feel you should have won?
The 1998 Grand Final when I was playing for Leeds against Wigan. That was hard coming so close but Jason Robinson denied us with that try just before half time.
You’re a real match winner for Wigan and a key player but do you think there’s any validity in the criticism that you undo some of the good work by conceding unnecessary penalties?
I’m an aggressive player but I never go out to hurt players or give penalties away. That’s my style of play and I’ll never change it although I might have to curb my temper a little bit. If you give penalties away here and there you’ve just got to take it on the chin.
So there’s something in the theory that if you try to change this side of your game too much it might reduce your impact on the field?
Definitely. There’s a few players like Adrian Morley and Barrie McDermott who play the game on a fine line and sometimes we over step the mark but our aggressiveness is one of our attributes too.
What were the key changes to Great Britain preparation that David Waite made?
Yeah he has a lot of experience and when he came along we started meeting earlier in the year and he started putting things into place so it wasn’t so rushed at the end of the season. He did a great job.
And presumably Brian Noble has continued this…
Yeah Brian’s carried the good things on and we’re still meeting early on. The preparation still starts early to prepare us for New Zealand and the Australians.
How can the Great Britain team pick themselves up after the Tri Nations final? Do you just put it down to a freakish 40 minutes and that the four games prior to that were a proper indication of Great Britain’s standing in the international game?
Yeah we saved our worst performance for the final and we let ourselves down that day with a painful loss but we saw throughout the tournament what we can do and we’ve got a great chance of winning the trophy this year.
Yeah in our State of Origin section Wally Lewis referred to a deciding game where Queensland raced to a 33-0 lead but of course the Origin history proves that when those results occur the other side comes back strongly the following year…
Yeah players have off days and on this time it was the biggest occasion of our career but we’re looking to put things right.
You must be looking forward to touring Australia in 2006 and 2008 if selected. Has it been hard being in the generation of players who have missed out on touring?
Yeah of course. You always want to test yourselves against the best players in their own back garden. The international stage went off for a while but as far as the players are concerned we want to go down under and beat them.
What do you remember of the infamous 64-10?
It was a bit of a nightmare. Travelling there and back in a week; it was a hard trip.
Who is the best player you’ve played with?
I’ve been fortunate that in my career I’ve played with loads of great players but I’d say Adrian Morley. My kind of player. He plays hard and never takes a backward step. He’s got a great attitude to training as well.
Would you play in the NRL?
Well I’m happy at Wigan but down the track…who knows?
Who’s been your toughest opponent?
It’s hard to say having played against so many great players. There’s the tough blokes like Adrian Morley and Barrie McDermott then there’s someone like Jason Robinson who’s so quick his feet. Va’aiga Tuigamala is up there too.
It must frustrate you when the media claim that “one hooker has totally outplayed the other” when you don’t necessarily come into contact much and also it largely depends on whose pack is providing the go forward?
Yeah that’s just the press though isn’t it but we’re all great mates and we always try and outplay each other. If I can do that then great!
What did you think of the Lancashire v Yorkshire fixtures from 2001, 2002 and 2003?
I enjoyed playing in them but we play too many games at the moment in the Super League. And if they wanted the right quality of game for the Origin we’d have to cut back on Super League because it’s a big ask backing up midweek after a round of the domestic competition.
Who do you nominate as the best up and coming youngsters at Wigan?
Harrison Hansen but you’ve got to remember that Danny Tickle is still young. He was probably our best forward at the start of the year and should be a candidate for a Great Britain cap at the end of the year. There’s also Liam Colbon who has great potential and Gareth Ashton who’ll get a go sometime this year then James Coyle as well. There’s loads coming through at Wigan and they’ve got great attitudes.
Would you ever become a Rugby League coach?
No! Too much pressure! After I retire I’d like to still be involved – maybe as kit man at Wigan! I’d like to coach juniors I suppose but I wouldn’t be a Super League coach.
Which player did you admire as a youngster?
Ellery Hanley. He was the best player in the world when I was a young Wigan fan.
Have you looked at any other hooker in particular as a role-model for the way you play?
I was signed by Dean Bell as a prop but when I was there he suggested I have a go at hooker and he said I should watch Keiron Cunningham, which I did.
With the likes of Farrell, Connolly, O’Connor and Cassidy leaving have you felt any additional pressure as a senior international player, given the amount of youngsters now in the team?
Obviously it’s hard replacing guys like that but Denis has said I’m getting to the age when I’ve got to step up and be a bit more mature. I’ve probably stepped things up along with Brian Carney and Kris Radlinski in that respect to help the younger players.
What do you think of Perpignan coming into the Super League?
It’s great isn’t it? Great for the game over there but they need to be bringing French lads through with one or two Aussies. They need to be given a chance to build it up over there so it’s a good thing.
What did you think of the UTC players?
They were very good and a very physical side. They’ll make a big impression in the Super League next year especially when you look at some of the signings they’ve made.
What was your initial reaction when you found out that Ian Millward was the new Wigan coach?
Surprised more than anything. With him being the Saints coach it was the last thing we expected but Ian’s a top class coach and I’m just glad to be working underneath him.
What are the key things that he has changed so far?
Not a lot has changed to be honest because he’ll have more of an impact long term rather than short term.
What stands out about him as different from other coaches you’ve worked with? Has he asked you to change anything with your own game?
No, not really but like I say he might do with time.
How confident are you that Wigan can still make the top six, and bearing in mind Canberra and Brisbane have won Premierships from low down before do you still think you can reach Old Trafford?
We’ll just take each game as it comes but it’s a big ask to get to the Grand Final; let’s be realistic.
What has being your approach to captaining the side in Kris Radlinski’s absence? Has this affected your game? What sort of captain are you?
I just go out and play my normal game and I’m enjoying it. Just wish we were winning more games!
What ambitions do you still have left in the game?
Well obviously to win trophies with Wigan and to stay in the Great Britain jersey for the time being.
Is there a game you look back on as being a favourite game you’ve played in?
My debut for Great Britain in 1998 in the third Test against New Zealand when Tony Smith kicked a late drop-goal to draw the game. Great Britain had lost the first two, so to come in and get a different result was a big thing. Also, the Tri-Nations game from 2004 when we beat Australia at Wigan is up there too. Then at Leeds there’s the Challenge Cup final against London in 1999.