- Lloyd Rothwell
McDonald Jones Stadium – Newcastle Knights
Photos by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
McDonald Jones Stadium 294 Turton Rd Broadmeadow NSW Australia
McDonald Jones Stadium website
Year Opened: 1970
Knights of Newcastle
McDonald Jones Stadium opened in 1970 as part of the Newcastle International Sports Centre, servicing the Hunter region, about two hours north of Sydney. Originally an oval-shaped playing field, the venue was converted into a rectangular stadium prior to the entry of the Knights into what is now the National Rugby League (NRL) in 1988. After numerous redevelopments commencing in 2003, the stadium has a current capacity of 33,000 and is considered an important component of NSW’s stadia network.
McDonald Jones Stadium is home to both the Newcastle Knights and the Newcastle Jets (A-League), and has hosted internationals for rugby league, rugby union, and football (soccer). The stadium is managed by a state government body, Venues NSW.
Despite some lean periods of late (particularly around the ill-fated ownership of mining magnate Nathan Tinkler), the Knights boast a solid record of success, particularly during the late 90s and early 2000s. While recent turmoil saw the club “win” the wooden spoon for finishing last for three successive years (2015-2017), after recruiting strongly the club has shown that their rebuild is progressing solidly.
Food & Beverage 3
While by no means extravagant, the caterers at McDonald Jones Stadium offer a broader selection of food and beverage than expected – the basics are well provided for and include items such as pies, sausage rolls, hot dogs, and hot chips. Prices are high, but not exorbitant; expect to pay about $5.50 on average for each of the aforementioned items.
There are also a few concessions stands offering specialty items including loaded hot chips (choose your seasoning and sauce), chiko rolls, pizza subs, fairy floss, Streets ice creams, and fairly uniquely for an Australian venue, churros.
Non-alcoholic drinks such as soft drinks, sports drinks, and bottled water are on average $5, and the beer selection is quite good, with several options such as Iron Jack ($6.50), Little Creatures ($8.50), XXXX Gold ($6.20), and Hahn Premium Light ($5.80). If beer is not your choice of drink, wine is also available by the glass ($6), along with cider ($9) and pre-mixed spirits ($9.50).
McDonald Jones Stadium is a classic football design, with grandstands running the length of the playing field and hills at either end. The main entrance is on the western side of the stadium with the plaza serving as an activation zone. The best feature here is the try-scoring simulation, and additional entries are located in the northeast and northwest corners.
The grandstands have three tiers, with the middle deck dedicated to corporate suites and function rooms. The seats are coloured red or blue in a nod to the playing strips of both the Knights and the Jets. With a steep grade, even the upper-deck seats feel close to the action, but all grandstand seats are reserved only. The eastern stand has been named in honour of local boy Andrew Johns, one of the greatest players in the history of rugby league and an Immortal – Johns played 249 games for the Knights between 1993 and 2007, in addition to representing NSW and Australia.
The hills at either end are quite small and include a few rows of fixed seating adjacent to the playing field. As these areas are general admission, you’re advised to arrive early. There are also scoreboards behind each hill, but the video board at the northern end is significantly larger than that at the southern end, and was repurposed from the old Parramatta Stadium, which was demolished in 2017 to make way for the new Western Sydney Stadium.
Newcastle was first explored by European colonialists in the 18th century. In fact, the major geographical feature of the region, a 300km river that empties into the Pacific Ocean between Nobby’s Head and Stocktown, was named after the second governor of NSW, John Hunter. The broader Hunter region is best known for its wineries and coal mines, and the city of Newcastle is traditionally a working class area, and is the second most populated city in the state of NSW after Sydney. Known colloquially as “Newy,” the coastal city is blessed with an abundance of beaches.
McDonald Jones Stadium itself is a part of a broader sporting centre including the adjacent hockey centre, harness racing track, nearby basketball stadium, and entertainment centre (arena). The immediate surrounding area is mostly suburban with the best bars and restaurants to the east in the CBD, although there are plans to develop the local area to include a hotel and entertainment precinct.
If you are headed east, then consider detouring past Beaumont St, Hamilton – this strip is known for its Mediterranean restaurants. Feel free to explore but one worth mentioning by name is The Depot (104 Beaumont St) which has a large restaurant and also a bar with a solid beer selection. Barbecue fans should visit The Lucky (237 Hunter St) in the CBD, but you’ll want to make a reservation and check whether the opening times correspond well with the game time. Live music has also always been popular in Newcastle; the most well-known acts to come out of Newcastle are Silverchair and The Screaming Jets.
You’ll definitely want to experience the coastal vistas around the city – the best views can be had at the Anzac Memorial Walk (Memorial Dr), but another great spot is the lighthouse at Nobby’s Head, where there is also a small kiosk where you can grab a coffee. Or if you have a few days to spare then you’re advised to explore the coast north of Newcastle around Port Stephens and Nelson Bay, as well as wine-country in the Hunter Valley.
Lastly, the sole opportunity for a double-header during the NRL season is the Newcastle North Stars of the Australian Ice Hockey League, who play their games at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium located 10km from McDonald Jones Stadium at Warners Bay.
Knights fans are amongst the most loyal and passionate in the league – Novocastrians take great pride in their team and show up en masse to support their team. More recently, the Knights’ average home crowd has hovered around the 15,000-18,000 mark, which ranks them in the top echelon throughout the NRL. While the atmosphere is largely family friendly, expect a vocal crowd.
Official parking lots are available only by pre-booking through the official ticket agent, and cost $10. If you plan on driving and want to play it safe, then be sure to book early as these lots are limited. Otherwise you’ll want to arrive up to two hours before the game to try to snag a park in the surrounding streets.
Public transport is available by bus and train; several bus routes run past the stadium, stopping at the Young / Turton junction, while the nearest train station is 1.5km away at Broadmeadow. The Hunter is also serviced by a regional airport at Williamtown (about 15km north of Newcastle), and flights into Newcastle Airport are available from the major east coast cities. If you are driving to the stadium from Sydney, the major connecting road is the M1 Motorway, which starts at Wahroongah and links drivers to the Newcastle Link Rd.
Moving around inside McDonald Jones Stadium is relatively smooth, and the stadium is also fitted with ramps and elevators to improve accessibility for less mobile people (see the stadium’s website for more information).
Return on Investment 4
Adult ticket prices start at $26 for general admission and rise to $51 for reserved seats on the half-way line, and the usual discounts apply for pre-purchasing, children, and families. Secondary spend prices for food, drinks, and parking are fair, especially in comparison to other NRL stadiums.
The fan experience is tailored towards children, with opportunities for face painting, skills, drills, and more at the western entry plaza. Additionally, there’s a jumping castle on the hill once you get inside. The south-eastern corner also features a “fortress” which is accessible to club members.
McDonald Jones Stadium is among the best of the “Tier Two” suburban stadiums in NSW. In addition, Newcastle is a great town to visit and is located only two hours north of Sydney, makes it a good choice for an NRL game.