You may have read my previous article – Reality Check For Knights fan: Newcastle are nowhere near premiership contenders.
The idea behind this one is to express how they can return to being heavyweights once again. Consider this as the sequel article. This will be the only sequel. This isn’t the Fast and Furious franchise.
I take a look at our past and can’t look any further than the mid 90s-mid 2000s Newcastle Knights.
We have once had the winning culture but due to unfortunate circumstances, that plummeted. During those years, we had Andrew Johns as the centrepiece and his contribution to our team will still be remembered in 50 years from now.
He not only showed the best he could on the field, he brought out the best of all those around him. Had he not suffered as many injuries or threw a certain pass in the 2000 preliminary final, Newcastle would have more premierships to their accolade.
We get told about how his halves partner in the 2001 grand final was a second rower but it’s rarely mentioned the dummy half for Newcastle on 1997 was the criminally underrated second row/lock forward Billy Peden.
Billy played only his second game beginning from number 9 in that game and the result says it all.
Now we’re here in the modern day and we have a very predominantly young squad. As the years go on, these players will build their combinations and will get better.
Take a look at Melbourne Storm with the big three – Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk. From being young teenagers to first grade stars, they were the cornerstone for Melbourne’s success and even Cameron won the big game as the sole survivor, which was his retirement match.
The winning culture Melbourne have is like a conveyance belt which can turn the next generation of stars from no name guys to superstars.
One thing I can’t stress enough is we have to keep Kalyn Ponga. In attack, he can be an absolute flair but I do think he needs a bit of work with his defence one on one.
I think the halves could be Jake Clifford the big red dog at halfback and Phoenix Crossland at five-eighth. Now if we complete the spine:
Kalyn Ponga – soon to be 24
Phoenix Crossland – 21
Jake Clifford – just turned 24
Jayden Brailey – soon to be 26
The combinations those guys could build over the years as the spine would be devastating and we have seen that spine just once last season in which Newcastle defeated Canberra 34-24.
At the same time, it’s only an opinion not a fact. Whoever the coach chooses to be our halves, I’ll trust his judgment.
With a handful of old boys in the Knights coaching team, they could teach the new breed exactly what the Newcastle winning culture is all about.
For our combinations to be effective, they’ll need experience and experience comes with knowledge. However, last season we had 15 different spines and half our original spine were out the opening rounds of the season.
Unfortunately when it comes down to injuries, they do happen and I just hope we don’t end up having enough injuries for a hospital ward again.
I remember during the rebuilding process, us fans were with our team and we backed them with our hearts. I have no doubt that it is still the case. That was our contribution during that period and the team is grateful for it. What do the fans need to do now?
Keep on backing our players, cheer them on, be a bit more realistic and stop the online bashing about which player should be dropped, sacked or isn’t NRL standard.
If you’re going to say a player shouldn’t be in the NRL, then you either go to AOB and tell him that you can do better or shut the hell up. We don’t bash our players online, we support them and we back them.
If you want to excessively online bash them, then when we next win a premiership, you have no right to join in the celebration.
We do have a long way to go and I don’t plan to back away. I didn’t go through 90 minutes getting a Knights tattoo on my right shoulder to turn my back on them now or ever.
Whether a player, coaching staff, in the headquarters or a fan, we are all the Newcastle Knights. Our players don’t just play to win, they play for the town and they play for the fans regardless where they live.
As I said once a while back – the Knights win, the fans win and if the Knights lose, the fans lose.