Newcastle made it back-to-back finals appearances for the first time since 2003 but their journey to seventh spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder was anything but easy.
Many had the Knights pencilled into the top eight at the start of the season but injuries to key men, particularly Kalyn Ponga's delayed return due to shoulder surgery, left Adam O'Brien's side with work to do in the second half of the year.
Their issues in attack were heavily highlighted, particularly when they looked bound for the finals, but one thing the Knights did well was defend their line when they were slightly ahead on the scoreboard.
The immediate retirement of Blake Green threw a spanner in the works but Jake Clifford's arrival halfway through the year was exactly what was required.
The arrival of Tyson Frizell proved a positive one for the club but he, too, fell victim to the side's injury curse when he missed weeks following ankle surgery.
Regular season win/loss record
Two wins to start the season without Ponga's services looked promising before a heart-breaking loss in Pearce's 300th NRL appearance in round three brought about the bad luck.
Pearce's pectoral muscle rupture was the next to go with the Knights veteran sidelined for three months.
In that period the side could only conjure three wins from 10 games to slump to 14th on the ladder.
However, Pearce's return in round 15 and the addition of Clifford worked wonders as the Knights won seven of their final 10 games.
A for-and-against of -143 to finish the regular season is the second-worst points differential record for a finals side in modern-day history but considering where the Knights were early in the year it was an almighty turnaround.
Run metres differential
The Knights were close to even in the yardage department with a -43 differential ranking them eighth overall in the Telstra Premiership.
Prop David Klemmer was the best for metres gained to average 165.5 per game, followed by Daniel Saifiti (149m) and Mitchell Barnett (132m).
Ponga racked up 2,012 metres in the 14 games he was restricted to in 2021.
Try scoring - game time
Newcastle finished 15th for tries scored with just 76 in total, 16 more than Canterbury's 60.
While they struggled to pile on points, they were otherwise consistent throughout the 80 minutes of play.
Winger Enari Tuala led the way with 10 regular-season tries and he added a hat-trick in the finals loss to the Eels.
Ponga was next best with eight tries in 15 appearances.
Tries conceded - game time
Newcastle's starts to games were a struggle - they conceded the first try in 16 of their 24 regular-season matches.
The worst of their tries conceded occurred in the first half (54) compared to 48 in the second 40 minutes of games.
Their best efforts defensively were after half-time, conceding just nine tries, while they were also among the best late to concede just 10 tries in the final 10 minutes of games.
Tries scored from six-again
Newcastle was the most disciplined side in the competition with a combined 86 ruck infringements and penalties conceded in 2021.
The Knights scored 14 tries off the back of six-again ruck infringements won while they conceded 13 of their own for an overall positive differential.
Metres gained from offloads
Newcastle recorded 216 offloads in 2021 with Barnett leading the way with 27, followed by Frizell (23) and Klemmer (17).
Their nine offloads a game average was slightly better than their efforts in 2020.
The side generated an average of 64.2 additional metres per game from their second-phase play, ranking them 12th.
In return, the Knights conceded 209 offloads at 71 metres conceded per game.
Goal-kicking was not a strong point for the Knights in 2021, similiar to the previous season, but this time around the side wasn't punished in matches.
An overall 70.1% strike-rate ranked them 14th in the competition behind the Dragons and Roosters.
Ponga (71.4%), Mitch Barnett (76.9%), Tex Hoy and Phoenix Crossland all shared the duties in the first half of the year before Jake Clifford took over in June.
Clifford will be out to improve his success rate of 67.4% if he's to keep the duties next year.
Newcastle entered the season with one of the youngest sides in the NRL at an average age of 25.1.
Of the 31 players used, 20 (64.5%) played in more than 11 games for the club.
The side had their injury problems throughout the year with key players but not necessarily season-ending setbacks as they endured 12 months earlier.
Tuala was the only player who didn't miss a game while Barnett and Jayden Brailey (both 23 games) enjoyed relatively healthy seasons.
Five players made their NRL debut including promising English teenager Dominic Young and back-rower Jack Johns, the son of former Knights legend Matthew.
Elbows and knees
Newcastle sat alongside premiers Penrith for best in the competition when it came to the 'elbows and knees' technique.
Elbows and knees is a term used for players who are able to avoid being placed on their back in a tackle.
In order to generate a fast play-the-ball, they're able to remain on their elbows and knees.
The Knights finished second with 2,121 elbows and knees carries, 20 shy of the Panthers.
Twin brothers Daniel (208) and Jacob Saifiti (184) were the best in this department.
Newcastle were ranked best for kick pressure applied on the opposition with a competition-high 436, seven clear of the Panthers.
This is best recorded with efforts from both markers or from the defensive line.
Knights co-captain Jayden Brailey led the way with 78 kick pressure efforts, followed by Barnett (59) and Connor Watson (48).