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Opinion

My NRL ladder prediction: Part 4 (eighth)

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26th February, 2021
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My preview series continues today with a look at the team that will round out the top eight.

8. Newcastle Knights (last year seventh)
After a regular season of just climbing their way into the finals, the Newcastle Knights were absolutely blown out by the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the elimination final last year.

The Knights looked good to start the game as they led the game with a strong 14-0 lead after 11 minutes of play, only to be decimated after that as they suffered a 26-point loss, which knocked them out of the competition.

This upcoming season, the Knights will look to be more consistent throughout their year as they seemed to look like a different side each week.

Kalyn Ponga

(Photo by Tony Feder/Getty Images)

The Knights will have two huge gains as they welcome Tyson Frizell and Blake Green. However, Green suffered an ACL tear in the back end of last season.

According to Fox Sports, he is likely to return for the Knights sometime in Rounds 5-8. Blake Green will bring some leadership into the young Newcastle team.

Jayden Brailey will be back from injury. While Blake Green is out, Kurt Mann will almost positively take the five-eighth role.

Connor Watson will likely be roaming the lock or utility role as the Knights’ second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon is sidelined due to surgery. This now sends Mitchell Barnett into the second-row position.

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These swaps have not only been because of players injured and players returning from injury. They’re also because two of the key members of the Knights’ 2020 forward pack in Herman Ese’ese and Aidan Guerra have been shipped off to other clubs.

Tyson Frizell replacing Guerra is a great move for Newcastle as Frizell brings a great outside running game. Frizell was not around great players that could let him express his full ability at the Dragons.

The men in red and blue will also be without veteran Tim Glasby as he retired at the end of 2020 and they will also have the absence of Mason Lino, who is being shipped to the UK to play for Wakefield Trinity.

The loss of Lino will not mean much as he was just another utility player that did not prove he was better than other utility players in the rotation like Connor Watson and Kurt Mann.

Overall, the Newcastle Knights will just have enough to scrape into the eight with great players like Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce, but they will fall in the first round of the playoffs yet again as they have a developing young team.

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