For the first time since 2002 and 2003, the Newcastle Knights are all but locked in for the finals.
Newcastle are on 24 points at seventh, and have effectively put themselves in the top eight.
This season wasn’t pretty but if Newcastle had a full-strength spine, they would be higher on the ladder.
Top four? Maybe. But definitely fifth or sixth.
I will give Canterbury their due credit. They never quit and even Jayden Okunbor’s try from me got a round of applause.
Their win gives them four points’ breathing space and has locked up Canterbury for the wooden spoon.
This is how the teams in the middle of the table line up ahead of the final two rounds.
Newcastle Knights: seventh on 24 points. Their final two games are against Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Cronulla Sharks: eighth on 20 points. Final two against Brisbane and Melbourne.
Gold Coast: ninth on 20 points. Final two against Newcastle and Warriors.
Canberra: tenth and 20 points. Final two against the Warriors and Roosters.
The only way how Newcastle will fall short is if two of the three teams on 20 won their final two and Newcastle lose theirs. However, I am more than confident they will remain in the eight.
If anything, Newcastle have no reason to lose their next two games. Their last two wins weren’t pretty but they got them and that’s what matters.
Winning by two points or by 38 still means you win. Screw it, I’m locking it in. Lock it in Eddie!
As a halves pairing, Mitchell Pearce and Jake Clifford are five and zero.
As a full-strength spine in 2021, Newcastle Knights are four and zero.
As a trio, Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Jayden Brailey are seven and zero.
I remember the rubbish claims earlier this year saying the Newcastle Knights have lost their soul. When I first heard that, there was only one word to describe it and as time goes on, that one word is still the same.
All the claims about how the Knights have lost their soul is bollocks. From what I have seen, Newcastle are slowly bringing back the winning culture to the team.
I don’t care if I sound crazy, but this doesn’t look like a team who is still struggling in the rebuilding process.
The winning culture is slowly returning and I saw some light of that when they managed to win games without Mitchell Pearce.
Newcastle beat a full-strength Manly side and beat Canberra twice this season (once while down by 16 at the break) and also beat Cronulla without Mitchell Pearce. The damage they are capable of with a full-strength team shows the kind of team they can be.
Newcastle are looking set to make back-to-back finals in the first two years of the coaching of Adam O’Brien. That hasn’t been accomplished by a Knights coach since the first two years of Michael Hagan.
How far in the finals can I see Newcastle going? That I don’t know, but what I do know is despite a roller coaster of a season, they never gave up.
Next up the Knights have got Gold Coast and Newcastle are a different team to the one who got thumped by the Titans back in Round 5. They have their full spine and a massive wave of momentum.
So Roarers, what do you think? Which team other than the Knights will make the eight?