Terry Newton: Rugby league hooker who took his own life following his suspension for drug-taking

Terry Newton was a richly talented and fiercely competitive rugby league player who will be remembered for the wrong reasons. His suicide at the age of 31 was the final act in a life and a career that often verged on melodrama.

Newton was brought up on the Worsley Mesnes estate in Wigan and gravitated to the game from an early age with the local amateur clubs Wigan St Jude's and Orrell St James. He was a prop forward who made up for his lack of size with sheer enthusiasm and aggression. He made the England Schoolboys side, but Wigan considered him too small and overlooked him.

Instead, he signed for Warrington, but in a way that presaged a career that was rarely simple, later signed for Leeds as well. That prompted a tug-of-war between the clubs, during which he could play for neither of them. After he spent a year out of the game, the case was resolved in Leeds' favour.

Leeds began the process of turning him into a hooker, a role in the modern game for which he proved to be ideally suited. He made his first-team debut against Sheffield Eagles in 1996 and toured New Zealand with the Great Britain Academy side at the end of that season and played in the World Club Challenge on both sides of the world the following season.

In 1998 he broke his leg twice, was loaned out to Bramley, played in the first Super League Grand Final, which Leeds lost to Wigan, and made his Great Britain debut. It was, as he described it in his autobiography Coming Clean, published this year, a typically eventful Terry Newton season. The following year, he was a Challenge Cup winner with the Rhinos, as the London Broncos were thrashed in the last final at the old Wembley Stadium.

Equally satisfying for Newton was the way that Wigan approached him, through an agent, about playing for them. "My mind was made up before I'd walked into the meeting," he said. "All I'd wanted since I was seven was to play for Wigan."

The deal was done for a £145,000 transfer fee, and Newton went on to make 186 appearances, scoring 62 tries, a remarkable number for a hooker. On top of his obvious relish for the physical aspects of the game, he had become an inventive player who could make things happen near the opposition try-line. During his time there, he played in three losing Grand Finals. Far more traumatic than that was the loss of his sister, Leanne, who died after a battle with heroin addiction.

Newton always attracted more than his share of trouble, both on and off the pitch, most infamously in the derby against St Helens in 2005. Saints' Lee Gilmour was carried off after Newton's high tackle on him, but it was the tackle that broke Sean Long's cheekbone and eye socket with his elbow that was one of the defining moments of his career. Ironically, in the close-knit world of rugby league, Long had been a close mate since they grew up together in Worsley Mesnes.

Newton was suspended for 10 matches and his Wigan career was effectively over. Again, typically, there was nothing straightforward about his transfer to Bradford. Wigan wanted Mickey Higham, but would not do business with his club, St Helens. Instead, Higham was transferred to Bradford, but was swapped for Newton without playing a game.

Newton had four good seasons with the Bulls but the side had started its slow decline and won nothing during his time there. He made the last of his 15 Great Britain appearances in 2007. At the end of the 2009 season he signed for Wakefield, but was to make just two appearances for them before his turbulent career shuddered to a halt.

Earlier that year he had started taking human growth hormone to speed up the recovery from injuries, injecting himself in his garage in a desperate attempt to roll back the years. He had been told that it was undetectable, but in November drug-testers turned up at a Wakefield training session and took a blood sample. Last February he was told that he had tested positive for HGH, the first athlete in the world to do so. He was given the mandatory two-year suspension and his contract at Wakefield was cancelled.

At 31, Newton knew his Super League career was over, though he harboured hopes that helping the UK Anti-Doping Agency in its campaign against the drug – stopping short of naming names – might shorten his ban and allow him to play again at a lower level.

He began to run a pub in Wigan, where many of his old team-mates and opponents visited and found him superficially cheerful. Despite his various excesses, he had always been a popular character within the game. He was hard on himself, however, calling himself a cheat and reflecting that he would be remembered for two things – taking drugs and smashing Sean Long's cheekbone.

As crowds gathered at the Championship Finals at Warrington last Sunday, rumours began to circulate that Newton had been found hanged in his garage. There was a minute's silence in his memory at the Man of Steel ceremony this week and there will be another at the Super League Grand Final at Old Trafford on Saturday.

That will mark the passing of a player who, despite his own assessment, deserved to be remembered for his ability, courage and wholeheartedness as well as the things he did wrong.

Terry Newton, rugby league player: born Wigan 7 November 1978; married Stacey (two daughters); died Orrell 26 September 2010.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before