Newcastle will look back on their 2020 campaign and ponder what could've been had they been able to keep their best side on the paddock throughout the year.
A horrendous injury toll, particularly in the spine, saw the Knights forced into endless reshuffles which robbed them of continuity and creativity.
After scraping into seventh spot they were put to the sword 46-20 by South Sydney in an inauspicious return to finals footy after a seven-year absence.
The signs were there in the final six weeks that fatigue had set in as the Knight went win-loss-win-loss-win-loss - hardly the ideal build-up to the play-offs.
The diehards will call the season a success but given the Knights sat in the top four at the halfway mark of the season, the jury is still out on whether the year was in fact a pass mark.
Knights' top five tries of 2020
Home and Away record
In a strange old year, the Knights shared their home games between Newcastle and the Central Coast for a 7-3 return following the May 28 resumption.
Four big wins on home turf to finish the season restored some pride after an ordinary eight losses at McDonald Jones Stadium in 2019.
However, the Knights will be kicking themselves all off-season after a nasty 36-6 loss on the Gold Coast in round 20 cost them the chance of hosting a home final against the Rabbitohs in week one.
A draw in round three against the Panthers at Campbelltown proved a thrilling contest and the last time the 2020 minor premiers surrendered a competition point before going on a 17-game winning streak.
Run metres differential
The Knights had been poor in the yardage department since their last finals appearance in 2013 but returned respectable numbers in 2020 on the back of the six-again rule and a maturing foward pack.
Their fourth overall total sat below premiership contenders South Sydney, Sydney Roosters and Penrith Panthers.
However, in a showing of their slight drop-off in this area and overall slide down the ladder, they ranked sixth for metres gained in the second half of the season despite a 5% improvement in conceding yardage.
David Klemmer (3497m), Kalyn Ponga (3379m) and Hymel Hunt (2748m) were the trio who did the most damage across the season.
Try scoring – game time
Newcastle ranked eighth for total tries with 75 in the regular season with a near-even breakdown across the board.
The Knights could pile on tries early and towards the end of games but weren't as effective in the 20-minute periods before and after half-time.
Knights centre Enari Tuala was the club's leading tryscorer with 11.
Kalyn Ponga (10) and Bradman Best (7) rounded out the top three prior to their finals clash with South Sydney.
Tries conceded – game time
The Knights ranked sixth for tries conceded during the regular season in a showing of their improved defensive efforts under new coach Adam O'Brien.
However, in an area of concern, the Knights went from conceding 16 points per game on average from rounds 1-10, to 21.4 points per game in the second half of the season – highlighting their lack of defensive resolve leading into the finals.
Tries scored/conceded from six-agains
Newcastle benefitted from six-again calls with 16 tries scored following a repeat set, ranking them equal third alongside Melbourne and Manly.
They conceded just seven tries through a ruck infringement to sit alongside the Raiders.
Grand finalists Melbourne and Penrith were the best sides with six tries conceded each.
Metres gained from offloads
The Knights sat mid-table throughout the year for offloads with a total of 172 but struggled to build any momentum from their attempts to build second-phase with a 5.5 metres gained average per attempt.
This average ranked them 15th, slightly ahead of the Bulldogs but also only behind the Panthers, who didn't offload the ball much at all during their stellar season.
David Klemmer improved his offloading-ability ten-fold in 2020 with a career-best 45 giving him an average of 2.25 per game and generating 228.9 metres for the side.
Tireless back-rower Mitch Barnett was the next best with 22 offloads recording 132.5 metres.
An area the Knights really struggled with despite the goal-kicking not necessarily costing them in close encounters aside from a draw in round three.
Kalyn Ponga's success rate dipped to 58.9% by season's end before O'Brien turned to Mason Lino who slotted them at 93.3%.
With Lino unsigned to the Knights for next season, the club will need an improvement from Ponga and back-up Tex Hoy in 2021.
Jayden Brailey's season-ending ACL injury in round two of the season was a bitter blow for the new recruit, before Connor Watson (achilles) and Andrew McCullough (hamstring) stretched the hooking stocks to the limit.
To top things off, another mid-season recruit, Blake Green, lasted just three games before his own season-ending knee injury.
However, in a positive for the club, local products Chris Randall, Tex Hoy, Starford To'a, Phoenix Crossland and Brodie Jones all got significant game time under the circumstances.
While the Knights didn't necessarily stand out and take true advantage of six-again plays in attack, they finished the season as the most disciplined side in the competition at conceding the least amount of ruck infringements.
Lachlan Fitzgibbon and retiring forward Aidan Guerra were the biggest culprits with seven each with Mitchell Pearce (6) third.
David Klemmer (5) and Kurt Mann (5) rounded out the top five but it was all quite tame compared to the NRL's worst offenders, a list that included Jake Trbojevic, Cameron Murray, Moeaki Fotuaika and Danny Levi, who all finished with 13 ruck infringements.
With a tweak in the way supports and decoys were measured in the search for greater accuracy this year, the Knights finished the regular season with a competition-high 1978 supports.
A support player is deemed to be someone who positions themselves to assist another teammate who has the ball during play.
Among the top five teams in this area were the Roosters (1824), Eels (1752) and Rabbitohs (1749).
Mitchell Pearce (202) and Kalyn Ponga (190) were among the Knights' best at sniffing around the ball with Lachlan Fitzgibbon (158) and Aidan Guerra (153) prolific on the edges at making themselves available to be part of a play.
2020 Form Guide
|1||Warriors||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Won 20-0|
|2||Wests Tigers||Leichhardt Oval, Sydney||Won 24-42|
|3||Panthers||Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney||Draw 14-14|
|4||Raiders||Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney||Won 18-34|
|5||Storm||Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast||Lost 12-26|
|6||Knights||Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast||Won 27-6|
|7||Cowboys||Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville||Lost 32-20|
|8||Sea Eagles||Lottoland, Sydney||Won 12-14|
|9||Eels||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Lost 4-10|
|10||Rabbitohs||Bankwest Stadium, Sydney||Won 18-20|
|11||Bulldogs||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Lost 12-18|
|12||Storm||Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast||Lost 26-16|
|13||Wests Tigers||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Won 44-4|
|14||Sea Eagles||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Won 26-24|
|15||Cowboys||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Won 12-0|
|16||Warriors||Scully Park, Tamworth||Lost 36-6|
|17||Sharks||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Won 38-10|
|18||Roosters||Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney||Lost 42-12|
|19||Dragons||McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle||Won 42-18|
|20||Titans||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Lost 36-6|
|Finals Week 1||Rabbitohs||ANZ Stadium, Sydney||Lost 46-20|