Buderus lauds Knights fans for sticking strong
Knights legend Danny Buderus has praised the stoicism of the Newcastle faithful as his former side prepares for what could be another year of hurt.
Newcastle's pre-season was rocked by news veteran playmaker Jarrod Mullen had been suspended under the NRL's anti-doping policy after returning a positive A-sample for an anabolic steroid.
On top of that, behemoth forward Pauli Pauli is out for the foreseeable future with a dislocated hip suffered in a car crash, while new recruit Rory Kostjasyn will miss 12 weeks with a throat injury.
Buderus, who was named as one of 46 NRL Ambassadors for 2017, described the Knights' recent woes as a "big blow" to their 2017 preparations, but said one thing that could never be rocked was Newcastle's support for their footy team.
"Obviously it's going to be a tough year, and it was always going to be a tough year [even] with everyone fit," he said.
"It's the cards we've been dealt up there – it's the cards we've been dealt for a while – but the thing that is bolted on is the fans. The fans are never going to waver, and the membership is strong.
"The day the club does turn it around, whoever is involved with the Knights at the time is in for one hell of a ride because the support and what they've got in the community is phenomenal. We'll turn it around and hopefully soon."
Despite back-to-back bottom-place finishes, Buderus said the Knights were in better shape than previous years due to coach Nathan Brown's youth policy in 2016.
"They've said they're well-ahead of this time last year. A lot of those guys are because this is their second pre-season. It's the old fitter, faster, stronger [theory] and I guess a lot of teams are," he said.
"The games that they've had at Newcastle on the back of another pre-season are hopefully going to be pretty evident come the first round and all the boys are firing.
"They're all very, very young – I think there are only nine players with over 50 games. It's going to be another learning experience but they're going to be the better for it."
Buderus was quick to dismiss suggestions the Knights should lure Cowboys young-gun Kalyn Ponga to the club before his four-year deal begins in 2018, telling media that it was in both parties' best interests for the 18-year-old to stay in Townsville for another season.
"I think Kalyn is in a really good position at the moment hanging out with the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and the world-class players they've got up there.
"He's still in a development phase himself, he's got a great coach in Paul Green, and when he comes down I think he'll be a really important player for the club; probably one of the most important in the last 10 or 15 years.
"For him to come down full of confidence into a team that's going in the right direction – which the Knights will be – that'll be the time for him."
Ponga's arrival in 2018 could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of Newcastle's recruitment.
With Mullen's future in doubt, and prop forward Korbin Sims now at the Broncos, the Knights will have plenty of cash to make a move on some of the game's high-profile off-contract stars.
Buderus said the key was to build around a core group of players and backed Brown's decision to grant Korbin Sims an immediate release to join the Broncos.
"As Browny stated, he's working through for a squad that's going to be around for a long time, and working out who wants to be around," he said.
"I don't know the ins and outs of what's happened there with Korbin, but he thought his future laid somewhere else, and so did the coach. Deals happen every day.
"But all I know is that Newcastle has got an opportunity with a lot of funds to bring players in.
"I don't know if it's going to be before Round 1, but when they do, they should have some really good money to spend on some really quality players."