Solace at Seven: Tyrone Roberts

By Jack Brady

Scott Dureau and Luke Walsh have come and gone while Jarrod Mullen and Kurt Gidley have positioned themselves elsewhere.

It has been seven years since now immortal Andrew Johns bid adieu to the NRL and the Newcastle Knights. Ironically it has been almost that long since the Newcastle Knights last won a finals game before this season.

Here we are faced with an almost unrecognisable prospect – the Newcastle Knights in the final four of an NRL competition and if it weren’t for the guidance of 22-year-old, Tyrone Roberts, who knows where the Knights would’ve ended up

Off the back of an inspirational man-of-the-match performance against Melbourne last weekend, Roberts has led the Knights to a mouthwatering showdown against minor-premiers, the Sydney Roosters this weekend.

However, this may not have been so if Knights coach Wayne Bennett had his way a couple of weeks ago.

From all accounts, Roberts was not a happy camper when Bennett decided to give 35 year-old New South Wales and Australian representative veteran Craig Gower a contract mid-season and former Canberra halfback Michael Dobson a lifeline for 2014.

In fact, if it weren’t for Gower’s currently injured back, Roberts may not have been even in the side at the moment – a ridiculous proposition in retrospect with Gower showing nothing but his age since returning to the NRL.

Roberts has proven since that he is the man for the job.

He is now leading premiership-winning forwards Willie Mason, Danny Buderus, Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith and Neville Costigan in scintillating fashion.

Tyrone Roberts may just be the x-factor that the Newcastle Knights have been seeking since Johns’ retirement.

A twelve-year premiership drought may be rained upon by success if Tyrone Roberts has anything to do with it.

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2013 NRL Season Preview: Newcastle Knights

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

The Fa’aoso Factor

Richie Fa'aoso

By Jack Brady 

It’s a Sunday afternoon. We’re at Newcastle’s Ausgrid Stadium. After twenty minutes of game time, the call comes down from the coach’s box for the big Tongan on the bench to start warming up. The 100kg behemoth stands up and starts pacing the sideline, readying himself to launch into the action on the field.

In seasons past, this man was Richie Fa’aoso.  However, this season, Fa’aoso only did this eight times for the Newcastle Knights.

The Knights apparent saviour coach Wayne Bennett, generally preferring another Tongan behemoth Willie Mason over the man in question in 2012.

While I am not bagging out Willie Mason, because let’s face it he was more than impressive this season for the Knights, it must be said that the club made a very questionable decision by releasing Fa’aoso.

Regardless, Fa’aoso, in a series of fortunate events for the man, is lining up to play in the NRL Grand Final this week for the Melbourne Storm.

Signed mid-season by the Storm, Fa’aoso managed just five games this season for the club. Yet with the season-ending injury to Storm stalwart Jason Ryles, Fa’aoso will find himself in the No. 17 come this Sunday.

Tongan Behemoth: Fa’aoso

In what could be called a blessing in disguise, Fa’aoso’s 99-game career for the Knights has seemingly come to an end at the right time. While many Knights fan questioned Bennett for not wanting crowd favourite Fa’aoso, I’m sure many will be cheering the charging Tongan whenever he graces the field on Sunday.

I know I will be. And who knows, the behemoth Tongan pacing the sideline after twenty minutes or so could be the game breaker that Melbourne needs to win the 2012 NRL Grand Final.

Tinkler Seals Positive Future for Knights: A Retrospective

By Jack Brady

Halfway through last year I wrote an opinion piece about Nathan Tinkler’s successful takeover of the Knights for a University assignment.

After re-reading this opinion piece,  I certainly jumped the gun with some of things I emphasised within it.

My previous opinion was based on the hopes and dreams of a premiership-winning Newcastle Knights teams.

The financial backing Tinkler provided for Newcastle has undoubtedly impacted them positively but this, as my past opinion emphasised, will not ultimately guarantee success.

Sure, Tinkler has eliminated the clubs debts and promised a guaranteed $10 million over the next decade but this will have no impact on whether they are a successful force in the 2012 National Rugby League season.

I noted in my previous opinion piece that I was bewildered by the three per cent who voted against the Tinkler privatisation of the Newcastle Knights, even going to the extent of questioning the naysayers legitimacy as true fans.

But now I have stopped viewing this through my ‘blue and red’ eyes.I’m facing the reality that having money and coach Wayne Bennett does not mean, unfortunately, the Newcastle Knights will win a premiership anytime soon.

The Knights brought back three former players last year in Timana Tahu, Kade Snowden and club legend Danny Buderus which worries me because they could very well be past their prime.

Take into account too the unknown signings of Alex McKinnon and Robbie Rochow.

Bar Darius Boyd, the Knights’ recruits and how they play in 2012 will be a mystery until they play the St George Illawarra Dragons on March 1.

I may be looking at the Knights 2012 campaign from a cynical perspective but with all these expectations, to the point they’re joint premiership contenders in numerous betting agencies, I won’t be surprised if this season is a complete failure.

Only time will tell.