Knights Mid-Season Review
Newcastle started their season on fire, winning four consecutive games. But their promising start to the season went south in a hurry. Now they're sitting on the bottom three rungs of the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder and travelling much worse than the average Joe would've expected of them in 2015.
The Run Home: Having lost eight of their past nine games, every game for the Knights has become increasingly important. Playing seven of their next 11 games away from Hunter Stadium, the Knights have tough trips to Canberra, Brisbane, South Sydney, Kogarah and Melbourne to look forward too.
Game to remember: Round 4 against the Panthers saw Newcastle run away with an 18-0 lead in the first 20 minutes before holding on to a 26-14 win. Their fourth consecutive win at the time, many were starting to take notice of the club. How times have changed.
The one that got away: Taking on the Warriors in New Zealand in Round 12 – one of the NRL's notoriously tough road trips – the Knights went down by four points in a game where opposition prop Ben Matulino was awarded a controversial try. Considering Newcastle were missing Jarrod Mullen, Jeremy Smith, captain Kurt Gidley, Kade Snowden, Robbie Rochow and lost halfback Tyrone Roberts five minutes into the game, it was a tough loss.
MVP: Whether he's been at fullback or centre Dane Gagai has been the Knights' best. Duly rewarded for his good form when he entered Queensland's Origin camp, Gagai is one of few players at the club who can hold his head up high. Currently averages a tick under 150 metres per game and is one of the game's elite tackle-breakers having beat 55 would-be defenders in 2015.
Stats that matter: Having conceded the third-most points (290), the third-most errors (140) and the fifth-most missed tackles (334) out of all 16 clubs, it's obvious which aspects of the Knights' game needs to improve.
Fantasy stud: Prop Snowden is the only Newcastle player to have an average score in the 50s in NRL Fantasy this year. Having increased in value by $40,000 already, Snowden doesn't look like stopping anytime soon as he looks to see out the year with a bulging disc in his neck, an aggravated injury from previous seasons.
Injury report: In terms of injuries Newcastle are eagerly awaiting the returns of Roberts (syndesmosis strain), Mullen (toe) and Smith (sternum) after their Round 14 bye. There has been a steady stream of injuries throughout the year which have impacted the make-up of the Knights' team in varying degrees. Snowden (neck), Gidley (various injuries), the Sims brothers (suspension), Beau Scott (ankle and Origin duty) and Adam Clydsdale (shoulder) have missed a few games while back-rower Rochow has been out since Round 3 with a back injury. It doesn't get any easier either with Jack Stockwell (bicep) and David Fa'alogo (hamstring) both injured in the Knights' Round 13 loss to the Raiders.
What they are saying: "We haven't had a good couple of months now so for sure there's pressure on us" – if there wasn't strain on the Knights already, then captain Gidley made sure to acknowledge it after their 44-22 loss to the Raiders last weekend. His last season at the club is unfortunately shaping up to an ugly one.
Predicted finish: While a resurgence is possible, much like last season where they won eight of their last 11 games, this season is shaping up to be very similar to the last. The top eight isn't out of sight just yet considering the congested ladder, but the Knights will probably struggle to get any higher than 11th by season's end.