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Newcastle's unending pain: Six win streak of 2019 will be this generation's '97

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Expert
14th August, 2019
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The year is 2049: Newcastle blow an 18-0 lead at home to the last-placed Titans, a loss consigning the club to a 36th consecutive year without a finals appearance. Jesus weeps, and so does his brother Matthew.

But as always, there are positives to emerge in the aftermath, with coach Nathan Brown promising the Knights’ committed fans that next year will be the 32nd and last of his rebuild.

Season 2050 had always been the year he would finally “get the roster he wanted” after disposing of the last remnants of the Wayne Bennett era, which were two old copies of Bacon Busters left in the lunchroom by Beau Scott.

It is a declaration that imbues Knights supporters with belief; this could either finally be their year, or they’re at least one year closer to reuniting with Rick Stone.

But even with hardcore belief in the Steel City, questions remain externally over Brown and his generous 30-year probation, with many questioning his ability to move with the modern game after being spotted training his side for contested scrums.

Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown.

Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown. (Tony Feder/Getty Images)

The former Dragons coach will have none of it though, spruiking an innovative new two-man block play to be run by Kalyn Ponga, the youthful prodigy who at age 49 is in his third stint with club following a sabbatical with the All Blacks and a second at five-eighth.

Will 2049 really be as tragic as this sounds for Newcastle? Of course not.

Firstly, the year 2049 will mean there is only 12 months remaining on the last of the Mata’uita dollars. Secondly, while the season will probably be another dreadful failure like the preceding three decades, it is a year destined for ceremony.

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That’s because it will mark the 30-year celebrations of the club’s most iconic period of this generation: the six game winning streak of 2019.

For those unaware, The Streak of 2019 had fans believing the rebuild was reaching a long-awaited fruition after years focusing on painstaking fundamentals like developing youngsters, offloading them, and replacing them with Chooks on overs.

It was a time the Knights exploded in to the top four after a breakthrough month-and-a-half of blistering rugby league, with the side combining sumptuous variety in attack with defence so stingy it evoked memories of refusing to pay Kirk Reynoldson.

Danny Levi and Kalyn Ponga

The Newcastle Knights eased the pressure on coach Nathan Brown with an impressive win over the Parramatta Eels. (Tony Feder/Getty Images)

With back page spreads and Friday night free-to-air fixtures at its sold-out fortress, the hype around the side grew so fervent that some fans embarked on 30 Mad Mondays, and Daniel Johns went even harder.

But unfortunately in the end, the six-game dynasty was derailed by State of Origin and Jesse Ramien, and the Knights did what any self-respecting long-term rebuilder inside the top four would do and got the hell out.

With the team back in its familiar place as a Sao in a blender, theories began to emerge from fans for the astonishing-yet-totally-predictable collapse.

Did Ramien not put the team first by white-anting Brown through local media? Did the club approach the Origin period wrong by recruiting good players? Why didn’t Brown deflect to ten years of floggings at the hands of Melbourne?

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Nevertheless, 2019’s Streak will be long recalled as a quintessential Knights moment, purely because it was two months of form that unfairly instilled Knights fans with ten centuries of blind faith.

It is another moment that cements an undeserving fan-base in a state of incarcerated optimism, a hardy bunch that would show a dignified patience through the Cretaceous era just in the hope of an expensive fossil. Which they did post-Andrew Johns with Trent Hodkinson.

With Newcastle set to indefinitely blow in a perennial rebuilding competition against Penrith, whereby the pair swap coaches and players and finish each other’s hastily signed seven year deals, will these six treasured wins for the Knights be remembered as this generation’s 1997?

It is a hefty call, one many could say as big as it is stupid.

While the Knights have enjoyed two premierships in both ’97 and 2001, the former is undoubtedly recalled as the organisation’s most iconic moment outside of The Footy Show’s short obsession with Justin Ryder.

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Ask anyone in the Steel City what separates their two titles, and they’ll say this to a man: the maiden premiership takes pride of place because unlike 2001, it was won fairly on grit and Robbie O’Davis, not Brian Smith and turtlenecks.

Like the Knights breakthrough title, The Streak should receive the recognition it deserves.

Anniversary celebrations in 2049 could offer 12 game membership packages at the discounted cost of eternal forgiveness, and culminate with an Old Boys Day where the era’s greats get together as a group for no more than 55 minutes.

But as promising as it sounds, hopefully 2019’s stellar achievement can eventually be usurped by the club experiencing the game’s holy grail: exiting a rebuild.