Panthers v Knights: Five key points
The Panthers turned back the clock as they handed the Knights a 30-12 flogging, condemning the Novocastrians to a last-place finish in the process. In what were the final games of their NRL careers, Penrith's David Simmons and Newcastle's Kurt Gidley stood tall for their respective teams.
And the 2015 wooden spoon goes to...
... the Newcastle Knights.
A decade after winning their maiden wooden spoon, the Knights clinched their second after their 18-point loss to Penrith.
The thinnest of silver linings? The Knights finished as the most "successful" wooden spoon recipients – tied with themselves back in 2005 – after earning 20 competition points.
In a season of 'what ifs' after they won their first four games, the departing Gidley couldn't bring himself to utter the words "wooden spoon".
"I don't want to really comment on those couple of words. I don't want them coming out of my mouth to be honest," Gidley said. "I'd prefer to look back over my whole career to be honest rather than this game and this year."
In an unlikely occurrence, Panthers coach Ivan Cleary stood up for Newcastle.
"There's something strange about our culture that everybody wants to label someone who comes last with something," Cleary said. "It's out of context this year I'll say on Newcastle's behalf, because the bottom line is they're a few wins out of the top eight."
Panthers grateful to finish year on a high
With 20 blokes injured in pre-season the Panthers season lacked continuity from the get-go. After securing a preliminary finals berth last year, Penrith never really looked likely in 2015.
Nonetheless Cleary was happy to end the season on a positive note and was happy to see the likes of Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Isaah Yeo make a name for themselves in the NRL.
"We had a lot of guys, young guys especially, who played a lot of the season. And those guys have been used to winning in lower grades, so they've had to endure some hard times and a hard season and they'll be better for it," Cleary said.
"That was our 11th halves combination [against Newcastle] this year, our sixth captain, and our edges have just change every week. It's just been, well... we never really got going."
David Simmons goes out a winner
An unassuming battler for 200 NRL games – the stars aligned for Simmons who left the game's premier competition on the back of a milestone, an 18-point win and the captaincy to boot.
On two occasions he came close to scoring his 104th and final try, but a conversion at game's end was enough to make the 30-year-old winger a very, very happy man.
Knights fall flat after tough month
Wins over the Wests Tigers and the Storm before an admirable loss to the Bulldogs last week were enough to take the wind out of Newcastle's sails.
The Knights conceded 13 penalties and 11 errors on Saturday and they couldn't get out of second gear after half-time, when they were up 12-8.
"It didn't feel like we had momentum for a lot of the game. We were lucky to come in at half-time with the score we did," Gidley said.
"And the second half we were on the back foot a lot of the time. It was just their energy and the momentum they had – we couldn't stop it and couldn't turn it."
Coach Danny Buderus rued his team's penalty count and the toll of a draining last month of the season.
"13 penalties conceded – you can't compete and you can't get any sort of possession," he said. "The past four weeks has taken its toll on that group and you revert back to old habits when you approach the situation."
Will Smith gives it to former team
Panthers fullback Will Smith played with Newcastle all the way up until NSW Cup. Granted a release after the Knights signed Craig Gower, Smith has crafted himself a 17-game career thus far at the Panthers.
He produced his best game in his short career so far against Newcastle – coming up with a try, 160 metres, four tackle breaks and two line breaks.
It's why Cleary wants to keep the off-contract utility at the club.
"He's getting better," Cleary said. "So that's always a good sign."