The rise of the Newcastle Knights

Adrian Megale Roar Rookie

By Adrian Megale, Adrian Megale is a Roar Rookie

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35 Have your say

    I have been a Newcastle Knights supporter for 20 of the 23 years of my life.

    I have watched them in their glory days, I have watched them after the departure of Andrew Johns, I have watched them with ‘super coach’ Wayne Bennett and I have watched them get three consecutive spoons.

    In his fourth game/run-on debut in Round 1 1994, a 20-year-old Andrew Johns led Newcastle Knights to a 43-14 victory over the South Sydney Rabbitohs, in which he scored 23 of the Knights’ 43 points.

    His career says it all – 2,176 points, most to ever be scored by a halfback, seventh halfback to score four tries in one match and in the same game. He scored 34 points, the most points to be scored by a halfback in one match.

    He set up the greatest grand final finish off all time in 1997 ARL grand final when he got Darren Albert over the line with six seconds left to steal it from Manly, 22-16. I firmly believe had it not been for the Super League competition, it would have been Manly versus Brisbane in the big dance.

    In 2001, Johns captained the Knights to a 30-24 grand final win over the runaway minor premiers, Parramatta Eels.

    I believe to this day, had Newcastle chose Super League over ARL, Super League would have won. That’s right I said it.

    Did we see a champions versus champions match between the two competition winners? No, but we saw something better. Unity between the comps, the finish of the war and now we have a fitting name, National Rugby League.

    Back on the topic about Newcastle Knights as a team. After Andrew Johns was forced into retirement, the spirit was there and they made the finals just three times but no premiership.

    In 2013, just one more win to get them there but a 40-14 thrashing by the Sydney Roosters cut their trip short. In 2014, Nathan Tinkler relinquished ownership and things really went downhill.

    In 2015, we won the first four but after our Round 5 13-0 loss to St George Illawarra Dragons, it went downhill. We sadly just got the wooden spoon after losing 30-12 against Penrith Panthers.

    In 2016, we only had a Round 6 18-16 win over the Wests Tigers to show, then we had 18 losses on the trot. The loss of Jarrod Mullen for his four-year drug suspension really was a heartbreaker.

    Knights player Jarrod Mullen during the NRL Auckland Nines. (AAP Image/SNPA, Teaukura Moetaua)

    (Source:AAP Image/SNPA, Teaukura Moetaua)

    In 2017, did we get the spoon again? Unfortunately we did but I saw something different. I saw a team who played most games with every part of their bodies and gave it their all. Five wins plus some close losses told me they’re cooking up a storm and no one is prepared.

    Here we are in 2018, the Knights have made some outstanding signings and kept a lot of their rookies from 2017. Those rooks have got another 12 months of experience they can work with plus the signings are going to be a difference maker.

    We got some amazing signings but I do believe our two biggest are Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga. With 238 games and a grand final victory under his belt with Sydney Roosters, Pearce will be a valuable asset.

    He will be a brilliant mentor for Brock Lamb, Connor Watson and Jack Johns. As for Kalyn Ponga, I have never seen a fullback tear track on the field like Ponga and that includes Billy Slater.

    With Wests taking over the Knights, they got a brilliant and bright future in front of them. Not just for the players or the club but us fans as well. We have gone through Hell and returned as stronger supporters. Now, it’s going to be our time.

    For this year, I believe we will either just make the eight or just miss but 2019 and onwards is where you really need to be wary. I believe we will win our third and maybe even fourth by 2025 and that’s eight years.

    Thank you for reading this and I hope you found it eye opening. Roarers, do you have the Knights picked for big things this year, or is their barren run set to continue?

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • January 10th 2018 @ 5:39am
      Jeff dustby said | January 10th 2018 @ 5:39am | ! Report

      You haven’t done anything yet
      Jack johns – good one
      Perhaps fans writing about their team is a bad idea

      • Roar Rookie

        January 10th 2018 @ 1:48pm
        Hard Yards said | January 10th 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        Adrian, I’m going to give you two pieces of free advice:

        1. stay away from anything to do with the Knights at any betting agencies this year. The odds will make you miserable, and if you take them you’ll go broke; and

        2. maintain your enthusiasm champion, and spit out some more articles. Good job.

      • Roar Guru

        January 10th 2018 @ 2:59pm
        Nat said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

        Another attempt at humour Jeff? A Knights fan articulating his enthusiasm for a team that has no where to go but up definitely deserves your ire. As does a 20yo kid trying to make his way in the game from the shadows of his father and uncle. You’re a class act.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 5:45am
      madmax said | January 10th 2018 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      Take it easy mate……your team has a lot of ground to cover before they get anywhere near another premiership. I also believe Ponga will be a flop & not the superstar you’re making him out to be. He’s nowhere near what the likes of Billy Slater & Brett Stewart were at the same age.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 6:33am
      Adam Bagnall said | January 10th 2018 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      As I wrote the other day, the Knights will unfortunately grab another wooden spoon. Pearce always had a decent pack around him at the Roosters, and it’s a big step backwards at the Knights. Their other signings aren’t much at all, Ponga has played just 9 games and you are already mentioning him in the same breath as one Billy Slater, while Aidan Guerra was in decline at the Roosters. They will compete hard each week, but in order for them to come close to the 8, you have to have half a dozen teams play worse than the Knights this year and I just can’t see that happening. It will be another rebuilding year and I don’t see them playing finals football for at least another couple of years.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 8:11am
        Beastie said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        Considering you believe the Titans will come 6th in 2018, I will take your predictions with a grain of salt.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 7:07am
      antbytes said | January 10th 2018 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      As a long term RL follower and Knights supporter since day 1 (30 years ago) I do believe you are right. Newcastle was the swaying factor as to the ARL/Super League battle. The Hunter Mariners became the Melbourne Storm and look where that went !
      As far as the top 8 goes; If the Knights aren’t knocking on that door this year I’d be surprised. Last year they lacked the finishing-off factor of closing out games. One stat I read was along the lines of ‘had the Knights won most of the games they were leading at half time, they would have made the 8’.
      True, some of their buys are in their twilight but these buys are hardened big game players that will teach the finishing skills required over the next 4-5 seasons.
      As far as 4th time spooners ??? I think the Titans are in for a rough year.

    • January 10th 2018 @ 8:16am
      Al said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      All of us in the Hunter would love to see the Knights back in the finals, but as Adam Bagnall points out above, you need to identify 8 teams that they’re going to player better than to make the eight. I reckon a vastly improved season is ahead of us, but that’s going to see us finish in 10th or so – 8 is probably out of reach again this year.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 8:28am
        Beastie said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:28am | ! Report

        I agree. The teams that I believe will play worse than the Knights this year are the Titans, Warriors and Tigers. I believe we will be on par with the Dogs, Rabbitohs, Raiders and Manly (if their halves situation is not sorted out) in terms of being able to win a few, but struggling to get that consistency out of the playing group to string a few wins together. So in saying that, I believe the Knights would be around 10th to 13th or thereabouts. If they do gel early and manage to string some wins together mid year, they could possibly push for the 8.

    • Roar Guru

      January 10th 2018 @ 8:48am
      The Barry said | January 10th 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

      I think most footy fans are hoping the Knights kick on this year.

      I reckon they’ll get off the bottom of the ladder but top 8 talk is way premature.

      For the first time in a long time they’ve made some quality signings but I’m not convinced theyre quality enough to lift them from three consecutive spoons into the 8.

      While everyone is getting caught up with Pearce, Ponga, Packer, Guerra, etc one signing that has slipped under the radar a little is Herman Ese’ese. He was very good last season and with a bigger role and more responsibility this year could really kick on. Hopefully he’s not used exclusively as a bench forward – although he does that job very well.

      • January 10th 2018 @ 11:31am
        Mushi said | January 10th 2018 @ 11:31am | ! Report

        I’m with you on this, I see a big improvement but they have been so far off the pace that it will need a lot to break right to play finals.

        Good news for them is their young team is capable of a step change in results due to development, plus the patience with the coach helps here.

        I think if the warriors gave a decent coach a 5 year window they’d be a top 4 mainstay.

        • Roar Guru

          January 10th 2018 @ 2:44pm
          The Barry said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

          Yeah. The signings are solid.

          Pearce is a very good club player but he’s not in the top five halves (incl 5/8s) in the comp – maybe not top 10.

          SKD, Moga, Guerra, Packer, Ese’ese, Lillyman, Heighington are all solid players but not in the top 10 (maybe top 20?) in their respective positions.

          If all of these guys are selected they’ll also force out some of the young bloke so that have been developing over the last couple of years.

          eg where does Daniel Safiti fit into a middle third rotation of Packer, Lillyman, Ese’ese, Heighington, plus Barnett. Ditto Brock Lamb with Watson, Pearce, Ponga, Hodkinson.

          Watson and Ponga have loads of potential but are still relatively unknown quantities at this stage.

          So the sum for mine is that they’ve improved from three time spooners to a lower-mid table quality team with potential to finish higher if things line up.

          • January 10th 2018 @ 2:56pm
            Beastie said | January 10th 2018 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

            The Knights don’t have Packer, he has gone to the Tigers. Daniel Safiti will either start or be on the bench, but I think from everything Brown has been saying, he will start with either Lillyman or Ese’Ese as his starting partner. I think Heighington is there more for a mentoring role and may be lucky to get a spot on the bench.

            I also believe after a few rounds that Lamb will find himself in the starting 5/8 spot with Watson on the bench in the utility role, as that would suit the team better than having Lamb on the bench or not in the team.

            To be honest, if some of the younger guys get their nose out of joint because a more experienced player has come into the team and “taken” their spot, I don’t think they are ready for first grade. The competition for spots is finally there, and with it, the extra effort that will be needed to prove the player deserves their spot rather than just being there because there is nobody else.

            • Roar Guru

              January 10th 2018 @ 7:03pm
              The Barry said | January 10th 2018 @ 7:03pm | ! Report

              Thanks, mental block about Packer, I’ve written that a few times.

              I agree with you about the younger players. They need to be looking at the competition for spots as a challenge rather than looking for an easy spot elsewhere. You’re right, thinking of it as “my spot” is a pretty good indicator that it’s not.

              But it will be a balancing act for Brown. There’s a core of blokes – most of them younger – who’ve been through hell for the last few seasons and have been improving. Now 5-6 of them will be playing reggies for the new signings.

              That situation would have to be managed carefully in any work group.

              • January 11th 2018 @ 12:06pm
                Albo said | January 11th 2018 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

                Yep ! But the Knights need to make the tough decisions around their youngsters. Some are never going to be good enough , others will make it over time, and others may be ready now. My assessment after watching every Knights game last year, is that I would be wrapping up securely their young local forwards in the Safiti boys, Josh King, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Levi & Seoni Mata Utia as the platform for the Knights future success. These local youngsters, in combination with experienced imports like Barnett, Buhrer, Guera, Ese Ese, Heighington & Lilyman will become a formidable pack this year and the future looks bright for these youngsters. On the other hand, I would tread warily with the youngsters they have vying for the future spine positions ( Lamb, Cogger & Johns). I have my doubts about their true potential, and it is not surprising that the Knights have basically imported a full new spine for 2018 in Pearce , Watson, Ponga & Slade Griffin ( though Levi should hold the 9, I would think).

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