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.

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.

Mid-Season Madness

By Jack Brady

It’s the 2nd of July.

June 30 is behind us.

Sure it means that the financial year has ended and sure it means that the Carbon tax in Australia has begun but for NRL coaches, club administrations, the players and even fans of all 16 NRL club, they are simply relieved.

The June 30 deadline will now come into play, the mid season signings of players is over for another year as each team can now knuckle down and concentrate on their final charge towards September football.

This season alone saw 18 players switch their club colours midway through the year.

Out of the 16 clubs in the National Rugby League, only the South Sydney Rabbitohs and Gold Coast Titans remained unaffected by the mid-season signing rollercoaster, however, if the June 30 deadline of mid-season player movement failed to exist, the rumoured departure of Knights player Junior Sau to the Rabbits just may’ve come to fruition.

Many fans of rugby league are critical of mid season transfers. It is just another example that loyalty in the sport nowadays is wavering. However, is it the players who want to leave or is it the coach and/or administration of the club pushing the player out the door?

Of course there are many different reasons as to why a player leaves one team for another, for example, this season such transfers have occurred because of disciplinary reasons, salary cap pressures and the better opportunities that a player may gain through their switch albeit for financial, footballing and family reasons.

These latter reasons demonstrate the necessity of the June 30 deadline.

It gives these players another chance before the season ends to strike a deal with another club for whatever reason whilst also preventing coaches and clubs alike to release all their unwanted players after the deadline comes into play.

I’m sure Wayne Bennett would’ve loved to free up some space in the salary cap for next season by releasing Sau and Wes Naiqama elsewhere but alas the deadline now prevents this. The same thing goes for players as well. Eels front-rower Justin Poore, for example, was prevented leaving the club before June 30. With the deadlines existence, Poore must stick it out with the Eels for at least the rest of the season.

Sure it has been a bit of a merry-go-round of player movements in the last week or so with all the different signings, but it is what makes this game unique. With the deadline intact, these signings shall never get out of hand and in that, they allow for another exciting niche of the game to exist, for fans to enjoy, and even mourn, the signing of a new addition to their club, controversially or not.

List of the 2012 Mid-Season Signings

Mitch Brown: Wests Tigers to Bulldogs

Ray Cashmere: St George-Illawarra to Wests Tigers

Masada Iosefa: Penrith to Wests Tigers

Shane Shackleton: Parramatta to Penrith

Sandor Earl: Penrith to Raiders

Drury Low: Raiders to Bulldogs

Samisoni Langi: Bulldogs to Roosters

Sam Perrett: Roosters to Bulldogs

Michael Lett: Bulldogs to St George Illawarra

Nafe Seluini: Penrith to Roosters

Lloyd Perrett: Roosters to Bulldogs

Dane Gagai: Broncos to Newcastle

Richie Fa’aoso: Newcastle to Melbourne

Luke Kelly: Melbourne to Parramatta

Krisnan Inu: Warriors to Bulldogs

Albert Kelly: Sharks to Newcastle

Willie Mason: Unattached to Newcastle

Anthony Mitchell: Roosters to Cowboys

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.