Newton's chance to wipe away tears

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The Independent Online

The Last few weeks have been an emotional roller-coaster for Terry Newton - one which he hopes will see him upwardly mobile against Australia today.

The Wigan and Great Britain hooker ended his best-ever season at club level weeping inconsolably on the pitch after the defeat by Bradford in the Super League Grand Final. Then he had to pull out of Great Britain's training camp in Spain, because his wife was experiencing complications in the latter stages of her pregnancy - a decision which he feared might put his Test ambitions at risk.

"She was past her due date, so I phoned David Waite [the Great Britain coach] to see if he could give me a bit of leeway," he says. "I was a bit concerned about not going to Spain, but his view was that your family has to come first and there wasn't much point having me there if I wasn't going to be happy. I was still keeping myself fit and watching videos on the Australians, knowing that she was in safe hands."

Newton's wife, Stacey, and their first child, Charley Mia, are now both doing well and the player himself, re-integrated in the Great Britain squad and named in the side for the first Test at Wigan today, is satisfied that he did the right thing.

Nor does he make any apology for his display of emotion at Old Trafford three weeks ago - one which will remain many people's abiding memory of the occasion. "I was in tears, which I suppose was showing my softer side, but I was distraught," he said. "You train all year and it's all taken away from you in 80 minutes."

That feeling that day is all the motivation Newton needs over the next three weekends. "If we can win this series, that Grand Final will be totally forgotten."

It is a mark of how much Newton contributed to Wigan's season that he would probably have been Great Britain's hooker today, even if his great rival, St Helens' Keiron Cunningham, had been fit. "Keiron's a very good friend of mine. He's a world-class player and any team would be stronger with him in it. If he's not there, I know there's a better chance of me being in the starting line-up."

Newton's sympathy for his rival extends to his off-field troubles this season, notably the positive drug test for a supplement he was advised to take. One way and another, Cunningham was never likely to be right for this series, but Newton is now far more than a stand-in.

"I do feel sorry for Keiron, but whether I would have been picked anyway is a question only David Waite can answer. It was the best year of my career, so hopefully I would have been rewarded."

Newton also has a special empathy for three other players who could well have been in this squad, but for the intervention of the courts. Ryan Bailey and Chev Walker had their seasons ended by custodial sentences for assaults outside a nightclub and Leon Pryce is awaiting sentence in his case.

Newton was the high-profile player in court last year and, although he was acquitted, he says he has learned from his mistakes. "It made me determined not to let anything like that happen to me again. It makes you grow into a bigger man if you can learn from where you've gone wrong."

If he was to give any advice to younger players it would be to keep clear of the sort of situations that can boil over into violence. "There are always people around who are going to have a crack at you. I learned that the hard way. Now being a father has changed everything; you don't just think about yourself all the time."

The new, mature Terry Newton can finish his season in the ideal way, if he can be a part of the Ashes series victory that has eluded several generations of British players. He is, however, having none of the popular theory that the tourists are under strength and there for the taking this time.

"I don't think they'll be weak in any positions. There's players missing, but they've still got world-class players everywhere. They could pick a hundred players."

One position where Australia are incontestably at full strength is hooker, where Danny Buderus has established himself as clear first choice.

"He's probably rated as the best hooker in the world at the moment, but I'll be trying to take that off him over the next couple of weeks."

That would be another high-point for a player and a person who has had his ups and downs over the last couple of years, but who now seems firmly on the right track.