Another day, another ridiculous amount of activity in the rugby league universe. I swear this is the off-season to end all off-seasons.
Yesterday saw rugby league’s worst kept secret finally confirmed as David Klemmer secured a release from the Bulldogs to join the Knights on a monster five-year deal.
Adding to the transfer frenzy fun was the fact that Roosters Premiership winning prop Dylan Napa has made his way from Bondi to Belmore to replace the departing Klemmer.
This story had been in the news for near on a month now, but still, to think that David Klemmer would be anywhere but the Bulldogs still hasn’t sunk in.
For most of 2018, Klemmer was the heart and soul of the depleted Bulldogs. He will now join the Knights on in a marquee role, and on a marquee contract.
We will revisit the Dogs situation a little further into the off-season but the general feeling across social media is that the Knights have come out as big winners here in the shift.
The Knights have quietly gone about a brilliant rebuild over the past two seasons. That quiet rebuild is now a rebuild that has Knights fans screaming from the rooftops.
I’m calling it right now, the signing of Blues and Kangaroos enforcer David Klemmer makes the Knights GENUINE finals contenders for the first time in a long time.
Considering they’ve been runaway ‘winners’ of the wooden spoon in three of the past four seasons, that will be music to the ears of those in red and blue in the Hunter.
They had a decent run in 2018 and at times looked as though they might threaten the finals contenders but they are now GENUINE contenders in 2019.
Klemmer adds belief that goes beyond his skill set.
Don’t get me wrong, Klemmer is an elite forward. He will bring aggression and go forward that has been missing in Newcastle for many seasons. He’ll dent plenty of defences and he’ll break plenty of wills in defence himself.
That said, you tell me that Knights players won’t turn up to training tomorrow with a little bit of extra spring in their step knowing that the Kangaroos’ top prop is now in their ranks.
Klemmer isn’t the be all and end of all recruitment prizes, but his arrival tops off a brilliant season of roster management by Nathan Brown and co. His arrival completes the puzzle that will see the Knights return to finals football.
I still maintain the Knights’ best signing for 2019 and beyond is former Shark centre Jesse Ramien. Words cannot describe just how high this kid’s ceiling is.
2018 was his first full season in the top grade and he’s already routinely swatting the game’s best centres away with regularity.
Newcastle fans will know all to well about the player they’re getting given that Ramien started his career busting the Knights apart in his debut match. He also scored a beautiful try in the opening minutes in the team’s round 12 fixture. The way he stepped past Kalyn Ponga left the superstar number one clutching at air.
They’ll be licking their lips now knowing that Ramien will be in red and blue causing issues rather than tearing their centres apart.
He is a future Origin centre and I have no doubt that he will become a genuine star in 2019.
Throw in the hugely improved Edrick Lee and the Knights have recruited well. They’re still looking to add a first-choice number one, with Kurt Mann the surprising main target.
The other big change here in the Newcastle line-up is the impending move to five-eighth by superstar Ponga.
The move will see the magical ball-playing youngster touch the ball in every set, which can only mean positive things for the Knights.
Connor Watson’s likely move to fullback will free up his running game and takes the pressure off his need to create. The move should benefit both players and therefore the side greatly.
Mitchell Pearce had a brilliant 2018 season despite a long injury lay off. He will have an entire off-season to build a combination with Ponga.
Throw in the re-signing of superstar in the making Lachlan Fitzgibbon, another off-season under the belts of the Saifiti twins, the return of Slade Griffin and the arrivals of Tim Gasby and James Gavet and this side should be finals bound.
Newcastle fans are among the most passionate in the game. Look at the crowds they’ve been able to attract despite a horror run of results.
It’s good to see some buzz coming out of the region. It had been there all off-season but the signing of Klemmer tips them over the top.
If they can sort out their number one position, I really can’t see any reason why the Knights can’t genuinely push for a comfortable sixth-or-so placed finish.
My money’s on a return to finals footy in 2019.