The ugly contradiction in Newcastle’s fairy tale

Sanchez8686 Roar Pro

By Sanchez8686, Sanchez8686 is a Roar Pro

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    Who doesn’t love a fairy tale? The heroes, the villains and everything in between make for a great read. Well, rugby league’s next fairy tale had long been anointed: the Newcastle Knights.

    The team failed under dreamy private ownership, then spent the next four years in the doldrums, with poor management and even poorer performances… Only to rise again on the back of star locals, playing in front of colloquial crowds, and achieving the ultimate success.

    Great story and sure to be a great read.

    However, over this offseason, the narrative has altered.

    Suddenly, with a surplus of money and an eye for a bargain or recycled player, the Knights are a good team with dreams of making the eight in 2018.

    What about the team full of local juniors? Where did that team go?

    Rather than being full of Hunter products, their likely team for Round 1 next year – as estimated by those in the know – is very different, the majority having been bought from out of town.

    Granted, in Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson they may have obtained potential superstars of the future, but how do you sell that to those juniors who now can’t get a game?

    What do you say to Lachlan Fitzgibbon, who may lose his spot to a 30-year-old journeyman? How do you keep a young prop enthused and committed when he’s just lost his spot to a bloke aged 35?

    How do you convince halves Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger that fewer opportunities at the top level will actually improve their abilities and not diminish them?

    This is now no longer a team of local juniors, it is one balanced by players either on their last legs or collecting their final paycheques.

    The heroes in this fairy tale have changed… Will the ending change too?

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    The Crowd Says (29)

    • December 13th 2017 @ 6:49am
      Simon Murray said | December 13th 2017 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      Fairy tales are for those that need a narrative to enjoy sport rather than the sport itself. This maligned tribalism in Newcastle worked once (also happened to work for NSW at the same time) but that doesn’t mean it will work again. If local Novocastrians which to watch their kids play football sign then up for the Maitland Heffers, if they wish to watch NRL than enjoy the Mitchell Pearce’s antics.

      Ooooh maybe Wayne will learn of his Hunter heritage and than Mitchell can be Johns 2.0. What a great narrative that would be for the journos. How about we get back to X’s and O’s not the playing time of blokes who aren’t very good.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 6:57am
        Not so super said | December 13th 2017 @ 6:57am | ! Report

        First paragraph spot on
        This is not a fairy tale

    • December 13th 2017 @ 7:10am
      Greg Ambrose said | December 13th 2017 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      The Eels and the Raiders had wonderful fairy tales many decades ago with teams full of local juniors. It is a cruel hoax that these fairy tales repeat themselves. Sightings of the next Joey Johns , Peter Sterling and Laurie Daley become less frequent over time although there is the odd russell in the bush now and again.

      As a Manly supporter it is rather ironic that since the Parra and Raiders golden spell it is the Eagles who have produced Menzies, Toovey, Gartner and the Turbo brothers to name a few who were born and bred locally and the Eels and Raiders have the Hayne Plane in all that time . No doubt I am missing some players but it is amazing the dearth of juniors in some of these strong areas who lead their clubs to a title or two.

      Could be the trend for the next decade or so.

      Hindmarsh comes to mind for Parra but he is not a local I believe?

      • December 13th 2017 @ 1:04pm
        Larry1950 said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

        Greg, who’s Russell? Surely not Ian Russell or Russell Gartner, too old. Maybe you need to rustle up some new cattle for the Knights.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 1:52pm
          Greg Ambrose said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

          Just be careful if you spot Rustle Crow russelling about in the bushes, it never ends well.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 5:32pm
        BleakCity said | December 13th 2017 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

        For all of Parra’s local juniors who turned out to be superstars you selected Sterlo? Born in Toowoomba & raised in Wagga? What do you classify as a junior? A player brought to the club before senior football? The last Parra “juniors” to hold up the cup as captain were Jamie Lyon & Andrew Ryan LOL.

        Every great club era has balanced itself with imports to fill the void. I can’t think of a single club in the modern era that won multiple titles with a majority of locals including Parra, Raiders, Broncos, Manly etc etc.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 9:49pm
          Greg Ambrose said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:49pm | ! Report

          True Bleak, I was rushing a bit and I do know that Sterling isn’t a junior. Fact is his Parra team were loaded with juniors and like the Raiders , Brisbane , Newcastle these juniors were a massive factor in the titles they won

          Ella , Kenny , Grothe , Price etc were crucial in the titles as were Daley , Stuart , Mullins and the rest at the Raiders.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 12:19pm
        RandyM said | December 14th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        You need good management and a good coach as well to get the best out of the talented juniors. The Raiders did produce Todd Carney, Josh Dugan, Campese, Jarod Croker in the last 10 years but some poor coaching and team culture meant they either didn’t stay or couldn’t play in a winning team.

        Pretty sure Manly would have been just as successful with Hayne instead of Brett Stewart, no disrespect to stewart who I was a big fan of.

        • December 14th 2017 @ 10:35pm
          Greg Ambrose said | December 14th 2017 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

          That’s the thing RandyM , although the Raiders have produced some good juniors since the golden spell, they aren’t anywhere near the once in a few generational batch from that spell. Part of being a champion is having your head screwed on properly as well.

          It’s debatable if Manly would be as successful with Hayne as Snake. Talent wise it is likely but I’m of the opinion that Snake was the key to that team with his try scoring nous and his out and out confidence which I believe spread thru the team.

          A friend of mine had a word to Snake before they beat the Storm 40 nil and he said that he was incredibly confident about winning. Looking at the team they were up against that is a rare level of self belief.

          I believe if Snake had a better run with injuries and bad luck he would be regarded as one of the best players ever. He’s not alone on that score though.

    • Roar Guru

      December 13th 2017 @ 8:09am
      The Barry said | December 13th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

      The Knights has a golden age of local players coming through in the 90s that in some ways stuffed them up in the future thinking the great production line would keep rolling on. Which it has done but it’s unrealistic to expect they’ll have enough talent coming through to field a whole NRL side.

      There’s a false expectation that the Knights should have a full team of local juniors that other clubs aren’t burdened with.

      If guys like Lamb, Cogger and Fitzgibbon are serious about their NRL careers they’ll see the competition for positions as a challenge, learn what they can from the experienced players brought in and fight to earn a spot.

      It will be much better for their careers than being handed a first grade jersey before they’re ready and playing with 16 other rookies.

      Or moving on to a club to be guaranteed a jersey.

      I think the Knights may have over recruited in the 1, 6, 7 and 9 given the players they already have but the team has been crying out for more experience.

      • December 13th 2017 @ 9:27am
        Beastie said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.
        Everyone goes on about how the team was giving their best week in week out but just didn’t have that experience to get the wins. Now they buy experienced players to help guide the younger ones and all of a sudden they have abandoned the locals.

        • December 13th 2017 @ 1:18pm
          terrence said | December 13th 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

          TB and Beastie,
          Exactly right gents, if the local players are good enough, they’ll get their chance.
          What Brown has done is get some experience and an on-field leader, which has created more depth, which they desperately needed. Over a long season, most of the squad will get opportunities.
          It wasn’t so long ago that Brown couldn’t land ”the one big name”. Now the has, it was what he, the team and the town needed.
          Still think they may be a few games short of the eight in 2018, but they’ll be a lot more consistent and competitive.

      • December 14th 2017 @ 2:27pm
        Jeremy said | December 14th 2017 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

        Spot on mate. The experienced players have been brought to the Knights to drive the youngsters development.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:35am
      Sammy said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      The NRL needs the regional clubs like Newcastle, Illawarra, Canberra, North Queensland and Gold Coast to be successful in order to promote the sport as a truly national code and move on from the Sydney premiership era.

      You might say that a truly national code requires teams in the capital cities – like the A-League or Big Bash – but teams planted in Adelaide or Perth would need to copy the Melbourne Storm’s expatriate model and it is unlikely that 3 expat teams could be sustainable in the long term.

      It seems that regional clubs still rely on Sydney/Brisbane juniors – but this is not due to a shortage of regional juniors, it is due to a loss of regional juniors to the capital cities.

      The NRL should consider some salary cap exemptions for regional clubs who can retain regional juniors.

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:47am
      souvalis said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      The team for Round 1 I think they’ll go with:
      Ponga
      SKD and Ross
      Moga and Sione M.
      Watson
      Pearce
      Lilliman and Daniel S.
      Levi
      Guerra and Buhrer (c) probably with Pearce
      Barnett

      J. Safiti Esseese Fitzgibbon and Griffin or Heighington…

      Of those players 7 are local juniors..I include players whose first ever NRL club was the Knights or grew up here…

      Who’s the backrow journeyman you speak of ? Guerra…a journeyman?
      Fitzy won’t lose his spot..he’ll be coming in off the bench as he did so well this past season..

      By ‘on their last legs’ you can only be referring to English rep. World Cup finalist 17 and ‘16 NRL premiership winning member,Heighington…can’t think of a more experienced mentor for the young props and backrowers coming thru the club than him…

      Shame about Brock Lamb,he could be special..but Brownies done the right thing..it was a shot at the 8 with Pearce or danger of a 4th consecutive spoon with Lamb…

    • December 13th 2017 @ 9:58am
      paul said | December 13th 2017 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      Newcastle’s goal this year should be to make the top 8 and with the players they’ve got on their books, this should be achievable. If they do, I reckon the vast majority of Newcastle fans won’t be concerned about whether the side is full of locals or not, they’ll be thrilled their side is competitive once more.

      You’re right, if Newcastle trots out all of the new recruits, the local juniors numbers will be down, but that supposes the juniors aren’t good enough to take the other’s position. Surely the best player should be chosen, not some bloke who played junior footie for Singleton. The season is also 26 rounds so plenty of time for guys to get first grade game time.

      And if they do make the 8, naturally your headline will be “and they all lived happily ever after”.

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