Newcastle steelworker, Gary Johns (42), has found himself thinking about the best years of his life again. The nineties.

Knowing that he’ll be in an emotional mood for the rest of the afternoon, Mr Johns says he can’t help but shake the guitar riff from Silverchair’s ‘Freak’ out of his head.

“It was a beautiful time to be a Novacastrian” he says, fighting back tears.

Culminating in a 1997 Grand Final win in the rugby league, the residents of the central New South Wales town of Newcastle had a lot to celebrate in the 1990s.

Aside from the development of the Stockton bridge, which the town still holds close to their heart, there was also a seemingly endless supply of high-paying blue collar jobs on the wharfs, in the steel mill and in the factories building trains.

“That Grand Final was the best day of my life” says while Gary re-enacting the Robbie O’Davis post try dance before breaking into a Ray Warren impersonation “Newcastle has won the Grand Final”

Gary says he can remember the Spud/Harrigan brawls like they were yesterday.

“It was magical mate. We had it all. Everyone had work and our footy team was delivering every week”

“We’d finish a week at the steel works, nail a couple of schooeys at queens wharf and some VCRs to get the night started. Hunter street was thumping, we’d end up at Fannies”

“Joey was the wildest one at the pub and he’d still get man of the match at marathon the next day. These days there’s no VCRs, no Fannies, no hill at Marathon…”

“Darby’s pies are still a dollar though” he said consoling himself with a smile.

“And now we’ve got Ponga… This town has still got it”



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