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Opinion

Newcastle's greatest NRL team

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Roar Guru
5th November, 2020
26

The Newcastle Knights are winners of two premierships and were a key player in the Super League war. They have been one of the most supported and followed teams in the NRL, and this is their greatest team.

1. Kalyn Ponga
Three caps for Queensland
The precocious kid born in Western Australia who was a golf champion in New Zealand has set the Knights’ attack on fire (like his hair colour) ever since he joined the team. His sidestepping, all-around passing and kicking skills give them something the Knights haven’t had at fullback.

2. Timana Tahu
Five caps for Australia, 12 for NSW
Tahu was a tall, physically gifted outside back who was pound-for-pound of the strongest players ever. Tahu could use his power and pace to dominate his opponents and was just as good in defence. These skills made him become a dual-international.

3. Matt Gidley
17 caps for Australia, 11 for NSW
Gidley was a fine attacking player who used his big step and one-handed offload to set up his winger. He was strong and a very dangerous ball runner. Gidley was a force whenever he was on his game.

His signature Gidley-flick made him every winger’s best friend as he set them up for a myriad of tries.

4. Adam MacDougall
11 caps for Australia, 11 for NSW
Mad Dog played exactly like his nickname. His hard running style and famous trash talk mad him a very arduous to go up against. His signature feud with Wendell Sailor highlighted his tenacious playstyle.

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5. Akuila Uate
Five caps for Australia, eight for Fiji, five for NSW, three-time winger of the year, RLIF winger of the year
Uate is a stocky, super strong and very fast winger. He has been a cult hero for the Knights where he has scored 109 tries.

Close to the line Uate could barge over multiple defenders to score, but he is also good for picking up metres while getting out of his own half. He was the best winger in the world from 2010-2012.

6. Matthew Johns
Eight caps for Australia, four for NSW
Known for his post-football career antics, Johns was unfortunately overshadowed by his brother, but he was a really smart player and punched above his weight. He was a great foil in the halves with his brother.

7. Andrew Johns
23 caps for Australia, 23 for NSW, three-time Dally M Medal winner, four-time halfback of the year, five-time RLW player of the year, two-time Golden Boot winner, Clive Churchill Medal winner
Andrew Johns is the greatest halfback ever and is featured in debates about the best to ever play the game. Johns had it all as a player – a pinpoint kicking game and the inventor of the banana kick. A famous double pump dummy.

He could throw long spirals to his teammates, his incredible defence was rare and his overall toughness made him an Immortal.

Andrew Johns smiles as he's presented to Newcastle fans in 2017

(Tony Feder/Getty Images)

8. Tony Butterfield
One cap for NSW
Part of their first-ever team and player number two in their history. He was such a key player in the Knights’ engine room who made plenty of metres and was a great club man – a type of player wanted in any team.

9. Danny Buderus
24 caps for Australia, 21 for NSW, Dally M Medal winner, three-time hooker of the year, Brad Fittler Medal winner
Buderus was the do it all hooker. He made great darts from dummy half that put lots of pressure on the defensive line.

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One of the greatest hookers to ever play, Buderus exemplified what it meant to be a Newcastle Knight. That he was the captain of NSW showed his leadership and importance.

10. Paul Harragon
14 caps for Australia, 20 for NSW, prop of the year
Chief was a ruthless, damaging prop who played with no fear whatsoever. The rampaging runs and massive hits changed the momentum of games to his side.

His heated rivalry with Mark Carroll is an indication of how he played the game.

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11. Steve Simpson
Seven caps for Australia, 13 for NSW
Simpson’s career was riddled with injuries which stopped him from reaching his potential. He long and lanky frame made him awkward to tackle and he had a handy offload.

12. Ben Kennedy
16 caps for Australia, 13 for NSW, two-time lock of the year
One of the finest back-rowers in the game in his prime, Kennedy excelled at busting the line on the edge or offloading the ball at will, which won him multiple representative appearances. His performance in the 2001 grand final was one the main reasons why Newcastle won the game.

13. Marc Granville
Part of the first team, Granville was the heart and soul of the Knights. He was incredibly fit, which made him a very productive player.

Bench
Kurt Gidley, Mark Sargent, Adam Muir and Daniel Saifiti.

Newcastle have compiled a dangerous squad. The hard running backrowers Simpson and Kennedy provide great punch and offloading in the edges. The dynamic Ponga will have opponents on alert as he can step right around anyone. The backs all really strong ball carriers, with Matt Gidley laying in tries with his famous flick.

The conductor will be Andrew Johns. His presence alone always gives his team a chance to win – he can kick opponents to death or will take the line on and break a game wide open.

Newcastle will be a nightmare to play against and these Knights are going to be hard to beat.