2010 Position: 11th (10 wins, 14 losses)
Gains: Beau Henry (St George Illawarra), Chris Houston (Suspension), Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos), Kyle O’Donnell (Cronulla), Maipele Morseau (Melbourne Storm), Neville Costigan (St George Illawarra), Siuatonga Likiliki (Warriors), Steve Southern (North Queensland Cowboys)
The Newcastle Knights never looked a threat in the 2010 after winning only one of their first five matches to start the season. This poor start can be attributed to the loss of captain Kurt Gidley for the first two months of the season due to injury.
The Knights showed 2010 wasn’t a total waste with a late run towards the back end of the year which nearly had them back in contention but earlier season lapses in games they should have won, cost them dearly.
In the end, season 2010 will not be one that will be remembered by many but isn’t as doom and gloom as it sounds. Many had predicted the Knights to be the wooden spooners for 2010. Off-field criminal allegations levelled at a few of their players along with coach Rick Stone taking the club for his first full season, led many to believe that avoiding last place would be quite an achievement.
Overall, the Knights forwards failed to get on top of the opposition, which made it hard for the halves to attack. To compensate for this problem, the Knights recruited well in gaining New Neville Costigan and Kyle O’Donnell, along with the returning Chris Houston. The Knights are hoping that Costigan will bring some impact and experience to their forward pack. He also adds some versatility to the pack with the ability to play prop, second row or lock.
The Knights recruitment for 2011 doesn’t stop in the forward pack though. Siuatonga Likiliki and Beau Henry will both be wearing Knights’ colours this year and both will be hoping to get some regular first grade experience. Two-time Toyota Cup Team of the Year member Likiliki will be hoping to cement a centre spot after failing to do so at the New Zealand Warriors. Henry is considered one of the best young talents in the game, despite not yet making his NRL debut. It’s not clear if he’ll start the season in the halves but many think he could fill the very big shoes left behind by Knights great, Andrew Johns.
Despite recruiting strong in the off-season, the biggest concern for the Newcastle team going into the 2011 season is Nathan Tinkler and his attempts to buy the club. Not many will argue that what Tinkler is offering can only be a good thing for the club, the main concern is that the process is dragging out and as such, could be affecting the morale of both players and fans. Already some key players such as Gidley and hooker Isaac De Gois have had contract negotiations put on hold until the Tinkler bid is resolved. Players like to have their future locked away and hopefully this won’t cause to much distraction.
What went right in 2010: The Knights loved getting the ball to the wings and Dally M winger of the year Akuila Uate was the shining light of the 2010 season. His speed and power on the wing was a delight to watch and if his form continues, he should be a lock for one of the wing positions on the Blues squad. The club scored more tries on the left sideline than any other in the NRL and the second most on the right sideline.
What went wrong in 2010: With more than 300 errors for the year the side put way too much pressure on themselves to defend in matches. This was then compounded when they became one of the most heavily penalised teams in the competition. It culminated in concentration lapses and fatigue in games, which leaked massive amounts of tries – sometimes very soft ones.
Final say for 2011: Expectations for the 2011 season are quite high for the Knights thanks to a lot of media attention surrounding the Tinkler bid and pursuing Jamal Idris. Unfortunately though, it looks like the Knights will once again fail to reach the finals. Club tensions and board conflicts aren’t a bonus for the team’s chances, and the lack of a key halves pairing is also a weight on Newcastle’s prospects.