It was a decade ago that Jason Nightingale scored his first NRL try on debut for St George Illawarra at Kogarah.
Which made it fitting that the veteran winger – a Renown United junior – notched his 100th try in the red v at the club’s spiritual St George home.
Nightingale crossed for a hat-trick against Newcastle on Sunday as St George Illawarra fought back from 28-10 down at half-time to record a thrilling 32-28 victory.
It was the 30-year-old’s third treble of the season as Nightingale also chalked up his 99th and 101st career tries.
“It was [a good comeback]. We spoke about it at half-time, it was pretty season-defining what we did in that second half,” Nightingale said.
“Luckily we came up with the goods and I think we just got back to playing simple and I think that was the mindset that helped us maintain the momentum in that second half and get across the line a few times.
“It’s strange, I’m scoring in groups of three this year. It’s only the third time I’ve scored in a game and [that’s my] third hat-trick. It’s very exciting playing outside of [Tim Lafai], he’s in fine form. And also Gareth [Widdop], he does put it on a dime for you a lot of times and [I’m] very grateful to get across the line for the hundredth [try].”
Dragons coach Paul McGregor paid tribute to the former New Zealand international whose first two tries gave St George Illawarra a 10-0 lead before his third drew the Dragons level midway through the second half.
“He’s been outstanding and like a bottle of red wine he just keeps getting better with age,” McGregor said.
“Another hat-trick… he’s always a guy that goes out and plays to his potential. He’s a big metre-eater at the back of the field. He knows how to get to the try line and the boys really like his leadership. He’s a pleasure to coach.”
It was a day of hat-tricks, as Newcastle fullback Nathan Ross crossed for a treble of his own inside the first half hour to help the Knights pile on their seemingly unassailable lead.
St George Illawarra were booed off at half-time by many of the more than 10,000-strong crowd at UOW Jubilee Oval.
But the Dragons’ comeback was complete with 13 minutes remaining as Kurt Mann showed good strength to cross out wide.