"It's the best 12 grand I ever spent," Ruben Zadkovich boasts as he turns the ignition in his Kombi Van.
The mustard yellow, 1972 lowlight camper - surfboard and wetsuit in the back - is the ugly duckling in a collection of the latest models including a Porsche and Audis parked at the Jets training base.
Sunglasses on, a customary wave out the window and off down the road the Kombi roars.
Say hello to the other side of the Jets captain - the laidback Bulli boy who makes the trek down the coast to his home break of Sandon Point whenever he needs a dose of reality.
It is a complete 180 degrees from the character most fans are familiar with - the intense, vein-bursting, dog-at-a-bone midfielder who treats every game, every tackle, as though his life depended on it.
"People often form opinions based on how I play," Zadkovich said.
"In my case, and I'm sure in many other cases, it is totally different.
"When I cross that white line I will do anything to win. I don't care whether I'm liked or not.
"I hope there is 50,000 hating on me at Allianz Stadium against Sydney on Friday [today] as long as we win.
"When I'm off the field, I care and want to be a good person.
"I have always tried to keep my feet on the ground and be good to people. If you do that I find people are very good back to you.
"In Newcastle, that is ten-fold."
Zadkovich makes no apology for his combative on-field style nor does he intend to curb it.
If a ball is there to be won, a tackle to be made, the Jets no. 8 is front and centre.
He does, however, object to the well-subscribed theory that he is a loose cannon, easily baited to the point where he snaps. One red card in 70 games for the Jets adds weight to his protest.
"Sometimes people think a reaction and a rash challenge is something that happens out of instinct," Zadkovich said.
"People will see a bad tackle on someone and say 'Ruben has lost his head'.
"What they don't know is that I made the decision that I am going to go in and tackle this guy as hard as I can. That is what I feel in that moment he deserves or what our team needs.
"It is a conscious decision. I don't do things without thinking. Everything is calculated."
It is a competitive streak instilled in him as a boy.
The youngest son of a former champion Queensland bush rugby league five-eighth, the blond-haired tearaway learned to fend for himself and fast.
"Dad captained Darling Downs and won Toowoomba grand finals at a pretty good standard," Zadkovich said.
"I don't think it was that though. Me and my brothers chose soccer and played from a young age.
"Being the youngest, Simon and Luke used to smash me. Carrying on and sulking was never going to work. I had to try harder or do whatever I could to win.
"As I got older and stronger, the battles got bigger and harder.
"Football is a game where I have often said nice guys finish last.
"You get a select few in different sports - people like [Knights legend] Danny Buderus, he is an all-round, stand-up guy.
"Not many people with his kindness make it to the top.
"You have to find the balance of when to flick the switch."
Simon, now 32, is a remote area nurse in north-east Arnhem Land. Luke, 30, is a London-based lawyer.
"They are both very good at what they do," Zadkovich said.
Ruben, 27, went down the path of football.
"I left the Wollongong Wolves at 17 to play in the local league with my two brothers at Bulli and got a job as a brickie's labourer," he said.
"I worked for a couple of months until I had enough money to buy an open return ticket to England.
"I rang all 92 clubs from Premier League teams all the way through to League Two.
"The ones who wrote back were Gillingham and Luton Town, and they both said 'sorry but we are not interested'.
"Eventually through (former Wollongong and Jets midfielder) Noel Spencer, he knew an agent called Simon Thompson, who knew the youth director at Queens Park Rangers. I ended up getting a one-day trial.
"First-team manager Ian Holloway happened to watch me score a goal, called me over and told me that I was training with him for the next two weeks.
"Shortly after that I signed a professional contract for QPR.
"Bar for Noel Spencer knowing Simon Thompson, it wouldn't have happened.
"I was told in Wollongong that I wasn't good enough and had the wrong attitude. I went to the other side of the world and got a contract on my own back.
"A year later I made the Australian under-20 side, signed for Sydney, won an A-League grand final and went on to play for the Socceroos.
"Now I am captain of the Newcastle Jets. It's funny because people say 'you're lucky'.
"In many respects we are lucky as footballers because of the lifestyle and how it is.
"Make no mistakes; other than health-wise and having a good body to get to this stage, luck didn't play the biggest part.
"It was my attitude and my determination. I know that I have earned what I have got. That's why I work so hard to keep it, and that's why I want to keep pushing forward."
To pigeon-hole Zadkovich purely as an enforcer is under-selling him.
You don't get signed as an 18-year-old by QPR, move to then Premier League club Derby County, score Australia's only goal at the Beijing Olympics and earn three senior national caps [the last in July] if you are one-dimensional.
"People focus on his physical capabilities," coach Gary van Egmond said.
"He has very good technique in regards to his passing ability and a lovely first touch.
"He is really working hard in regards to his positioning in midfield.
"You can see he has taken things on board to improve his game and has reaped the benefits with his Socceroos call-up.
"He is 27 but there is still more for him to improve."
There is no doubt that the captaincy, and the maturity required to lead, aided in Zadkovich's development.
Pitched into the role after injury then the mid-season departure of Jobe Wheelhouse, Zadkovich admitted the armband had forced a change in mindset.
"You realise you have more people looking at you to set the standards and lead by example," he said.
"That was not always the case early on in my career.
"I used to just work hard. If I was having an off day, I was having an off day. It didn't really affect everyone else. Now as a leader it does affect everyone.
"I am still a young captain and I want to learn and get better.
"I know on the weekend in a proper competitive A-League match, I work hard and my competitiveness is there to see.
"That is the example I want to set for the boys and I really feel they will follow.
"In other areas of captaincy I want to improve and keep learning."
Zadkovich has the benefit of experienced heads in the dressing room; guys to bounce ideas off and seek advice.
Emile Heskey played more than 350 games in the English Premier League and represented England. Michael Bridges also came through the English top tier. Kew Jaliens has 10 caps for Holland and Zenon Caravella built a wealth of knowledge at four A-League clubs.
"They are people I turn to all the time," he said.
"I want to learn from my peers and be the best captain I can be.
"When we have had a few of those talks, they say 'you see things in black and white'. Sometimes it needs to be said or needs to be done this way.
"I have always had a strong relationship with Dutchy [coach Gary van Egmond].
"He gives me feedback and pulls me into line when I need to be.
"If there is something I disagree with I can talk to him about it. He will listen but he has the final say.
"Whatever he wants me to do, I will do it to the best of my ability.
"There are times when you have a difference of opinion. That is a healthy thing."
Apart from "leading the boys" Zadkovich takes the responsibility of representing the region and its people very seriously.
"Some of the friends I have made in this town, I can tell they will be lifelong friends," he said.
"Most Newcastle people are very proud of the people who represent them.
"Now I feel like one of the Merewether boys. It is good to be able to go for a surf with those guys away from my teammates."
Which brings us to the Kombi.
"It is one of the best things I have bought," he said.
"To be able to get in that car, pick up a couple of mates, throw the boards in the back and go for a surf or cruise the scenic way to Bulli.
"Going back to Bulli, especially in that car, stripping things back to the basics, sometimes it is the best things in life.
"It reminds me of where I was as a 17-year-old and where I am now.
"I never want to change. I don't see myself as a celebrity or star," he said.
"I see myself as a normal bloke. I'm a Bulli boy and now I'm one of the Merewether boys.
"That's who I am - an average Novocastrian."