By TONY WHITE
WITH his side trailing defending premiers the Bulldogs 24-20 and with less than a minute left on the clock at Energy Australia Stadium on Sunday, Grafton-born Newcastle Knights winger Trent Salkeld charged towards an open try line.
The Knights beleaguered army of supporters in the grandstand and surrounds rose in anticipation.
Salkeld made a beeline for the corner posts. A try would have snatched the match.
But a fairytale finish was quashed, when fate in the shape of Bulldogs defenders Luke Patten and pocket battleship, Matt Utai, arrived just in time.
"When I got the ball it was looking good (the try)," Salkeld said yesterday. "Good until about half a second before I really got hammered.
"Originally I thought I was going to get there for sure then late, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Patten and Utai coming across.
"They didn't miss me, I can assure you."
Salkeld was bundled into touch just short of the try line and with the crunching tackle ended the Knights hopes of notching the club's first win this season.
"That (the last-ditch tackle) sums up the way we're going. We just can't win," Salkeld lamented. "But there are a lot of positives to come out of the game.
"We'd been struggling earlier. We had a meeting with some of the former players like Tony Butterfield and he said they had been through bad times but the one thing they always had was heart and they never gave up.
"We haven't either. We didn't give up against Canterbury and we won't give up. The wins will come."
Salkeld, who attended Westlawn Public School in Grafton, is in his second year with the Knights. He spent three and half months sidelined with an ankle injury last season.
Another Graftonian, former Ghost player Aaron Hartmann, is in his first year with the club currently playing Jersey Flegg Under-20s.
Salkeld didn't take up league until he was a teenager in Tamworth at Farrer College from 1995, so the promising back has enjoyed a meteoric rise.
The Salkeld family -Doug and Betty and children Ben, 26, Trent, 23, Erin, 20 and Josh, 17 -- lived in Grafton from 1985 to 1994 until Trent's father Doug accepted a work transfer to Tamworth where they stayed until returning to Grafton in 1999.
Sporting achievements are commonplace in the Salkeld family.
Ben is a former top soccer player, swimmer and triathlete and Josh, a state swimmer and current Ghost's Under-18 player.
Before turning to league Trent was a classy soccer player, competed at state level in athletics and also a skier in the Grafton Bridge to Bridge in the early 1990s.
"I wasn't really interested in league until Farrer," Salkeld recalled. "I tried to combine soccer and league at first but ended up concentrating on league."
Playing first grade with the Knights is a living dream for Salkeld.
"I watched Newcastle with Andrew Johns and Robbie O'Davis win the premiership in 1997 and I followed them ever since," Salkeld said. "It's a bit eerie now. I'm playing alongside them and listening to their advice.
"I'm living a dream.
"When I first came down here (Newcastle) I never thought I'd make it, but with perseverance and determination and a lucky break -- everyone needs that -- I've made first grade.
"Any young blokes wanting to do the same thing I'd just suggest if you want to do something you can't hope it will just happen, you've got to make it happen with hard work and determination."
At 90kg and standing 185cm, Salkeld is currently making the most of his opportunities on the wing and hopes to cement a first grade spot by playing consistently.
After initially working with a local accountancy firm while completing a commerce degree at university, Salkeld has deferred his degree this year to concentrate on football.
Asked how quick he runs, Salkeld laughed before saying: "Hopefully quicker than the blokes chasing me."