By Brady Foray Writers
Let’s not beat around the bush. The Newcastle Knights, who delivered so much promise with the signings of Darius Boyd and coach Wayne Bennett, rarely delivered last season. The Knights were miserable in 2012. The team never clicked under Bennett and the season-ending shoulder injury to captain Kurt Gidley definitely didn’t help. The club went win for loss before Gidley’s injury in Round 8 and embarked on a five-game losing streak thereafter. The successful return of former international Willie Mason, however, was a real highlight for the club last season.
Enter 2013 and the Newcastle Knights appear to have a different vibe about them. Club veterans Wes Naiqama, Zeb Taia, Richie Fa’aoso and Junior Sau among others have left. The arrival of internationals Beau Scott, David Fa’alogo and Jeremy Smith will not only help the Knights improve on the field but will add much needed experience to a side which lacked leadership last year. If the Knights are to win a premiership in the Wayne Bennett era then this is the season to do it, just as long as Gidley stays fit for the entire season.
Signings: Beau Scott (Dragons), Toka Likiliki (Warriors), David Fa’alogo (Huddersfield), Jeremy Smith (Sharks), Mitchell Frei (Broncos), Anthony Quinn (Storm), Joseph Leilua (Roosters), Travis Waddell (Raiders), Jacob Gagai (Knights)
Departures: Api Pewhairangi (Eels), Zeb Taia (Catalans Dragons), Richie Fa’aoso (Storm, mid-season), Wes Naiqama (Panthers), Kyle O’Donnell (Panthers), Joel Edwards (Raiders), Evarn Tuimavave (Hull KR), Junior Sau (Storm), Sam Anderson (Panthers), Ethan Cook (Panthers), Kurt Mann (Storm), Geordie Connelly (Panthers), Albert Kelly (Titans)
Key to Success:
It was Round 8 last year when it all went downhill for the Newcastle Knights. Kurt Gidley, the inspirational captain and most influential player at the club, left the field clutching at his season-ending shoulder injury. The team never quite recovered. While Tyrone Roberts did an admirable job in Gidley’s (pictured right) absence, at the end of the day there was no replacing the Origin and Australian representative. If the Newcastle Knights are genuine premiership contenders then their skipper needs to be out on the paddock every single game.
Player to Watch:
By no means does this mean he’ll have a brilliant season, but it will be interesting to see how former New Zealand international David Fa’alogo will perform in his NRL return. Well-known for his seven-season stint at the Rabbitohs (and for knocking out the first grade coach at the time Jason Taylor), Fa’alogo (pictured left) returns to the NRL to add some (much needed) grunt to the otherwise relative soft Knights forward pack.
Erratic Eddy says:
“They call Wayne Bennett ‘the super coach’…fair enough call I suppose. He has proven himself over time with Canberra, Broncos and Dragons that he is one of the best coaches to ever pick up a clipboard. But Eddy can’t believe they got rid of internationals like Fa’aoso, Tuimavave and Kafusi to keep Adam Cuthbertson. What was/is Bennett thinking?”
Strongest 17: 1-Darius Boyd 2- James McManus 3- Dane Gagai 4- Timana Tahu 5- Akuila Uate 6- Jarrod Mullen 7- Kurt Gidley (C) 8- Willie Mason 9- Danny Buderus 10- Kade Snowden 11- Chris Houston 12- Beau Scott 13- Jeremy Smith Interchange: 14- Matt Hilder 15- Neville Costigan 16- David Fa’alogo 17- Robbie Rochow. 18th Man: Zane Tetevano.
Predicted Position: 7th