5 burning questions: Knights
Following a tumultuous and at times tragic 2014 season the Knights still managed a bright finish, and will be hoping questions around ownership, coaching and player retention are answered in their favour in the coming months.
Will the older boys survive the summer?
As another season passes, several bodies on the Knights’ roster continue to creep closer to the end of their careers. With the arduous task of getting oneself right for the season ahead, many aging bodies may struggle under the expectations of returning coach Rick Stone. The reality is Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith, Clint Newton, David Fa'alogo and Kurt Gidley are closer to 40 than 20. It certainly will be surprising if they all come through with flying colours. Scott especially will have to be careful with his workload considering he is expected to line up for Australia in the Four Nations throughout November.
Speaking of Fa'alogo (and Chris Houston for that matter) – do they re-sign?
If these two blokes aren't through the door come November then Newcastle will be left with a sizeable hole in the forward stocks, especially with Willie Mason likely to depart. They cannot afford to leave this gap with next to no props in the competition still off-contract to bolster their squad. North Queensland's Tariq Sims will provide some starch alongside a few old heads like Kade Snowden but the Knights may still need the likes of NSW Cup props Sam Mataora and Paterika Vaivai to turn themselves into regular first graders.
What will come of the Rick Stone influence?
Time will tell but surely they can only better themselves given Stone's solid results last time he was in charge. Having made the call to not re-sign club legend Timana Tahu and crowd favourite Willie Mason, last year's NSW Cup mentor has already started putting his stamp on the new roster. Making two finals series in three attempts between 2009-11, Stone has a squad who finished off the 2014 season in fine form (eight wins in the last 11 games) which he'll look to build upon with the additions of Cowboys back-rower Tariq Sims and Warriors utility Carlos Tuimavave.
Where do the Mata'utia's find themselves placed?
With James McManus and Akuila Uate presumably fit and ready to resume their spots as part of the furniture on Newcastle's flanks and Gidley set to return to fullback fulltime, it will be interesting to see where the Mata'utia clan fit in. With Sione, Chanel and the untried Pat plying their trade with the club since Harold Matthews, the time has come for them to make a play for a permanent first grade spot. An idea which is sure to keep coach Stone's brain ticking over is having one of them on the bench as a utility (potentially Kangaroos bolter, the 18-year-old Sione). Sione may be utilised in the outside backs while Gidley shifts to hooker ultimately allowing 21-year-old first choice hooker Adam Clydsdale to have breathers throughout games.
Will Koukash stump up the cash?
With Nathan Tinkler ending his time as owner in 2014, the Knights might be hesitant to jump into bed with another businessman so soon. English billionaire Marwan Koukash, owner of English Super League club Salford City Reds, has expressed his interest in Newcastle. Adamant he won't use it as "a toy", Koukash will have to be more than convincing if the NRL and Wests Group are to hand over the keys to the kingdom. Whether it happens over the off-season or not though remains to be seen.