Record (W-L-D): 8-16-0
Top Pointscorer: Tyrone Roberts 120
Top Tryscorer: Akuila Uate 12
After four rounds of the National Rugby League premiership the Newcastle Knights were competition leaders and without too many worries in the world. Their season unraveled from there winning only four of their last twenty, coach Rick Stone was sacked and the club ended up with their second wooden spoon.
Newcastle’s early season form saw them knock off the fancied North Queensland Cowboys at 1300 Smiles Stadium in a game where criticism was leveled at Beau Scott for his late shot on Johnathon Thurston. This led to calls for play makers to be protected. They came out blazing against Penrith a week later to have the game in control at half time before going onto a 26-14 victory. A late season win in Melbourne gave club legend and interim coach Danny Buderus a boost with the Knights coaching spot still up for grabs at the time.
In the space of twelve games the Knights season was over. An ANZAC Day loss to the Cowboys saw them drop out of the eight. By round eighteen they fell to last place as Blake Austin starred in Canberra’s 36-22 victory. Finally Rick Stone’s fate was decided after an inept effort against South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on July 25, the club saying his position was untenable. Buderus’ first game in charge of the side saw them go into the sheds ahead of St George-Illawarra before surrendering 46-24. They won two out of six and almost had the prized scalp of Canterbury Bulldogs in the second last round. A loss to Penrith in the final round saw Newcastle end up in last place.
It’s well known the off-field issues Dane Gagai had early in his career that led to his sacking at Brisbane. This year the twenty-four year old was one of the most consistent players in the squad. He was rewarded with a call up to the Queensland Origin side on a historic night where the Maroons won 52-6. Gagai was identified as having an irregular heartbeat that saw him hospitalised following his side’s win over the Gold Coast in July.
New coach Nathan Brown will be delighted to see some of the younger players coming through the club. Gagai, Korbin Sims, Sione Mata’utia, Adam Clysdale, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Jake Mamo and Joseph Tapine are all under twenty-five with a fair amount of their career remaining. These players represent the foundation of the Knights squad for the next five years.
With an aging roster it was inevitable there would be a mass exodus. David Fa’alogo and Clint Newton announced their retirements. Kurt Gidley ended fifteen seasons and 251 games with the club to head to Warrington in 2016. Tyrone Roberts has moved to the Gold Coast Titans where he looks likely to partner Kane Elgey in the halves. Beau Scott signed with Parramatta for personal reasons and Carlos Tuimavave is off to Hull FC.
Joining the club in 2016 will be New South Wales five-eighth Trent Hodkinson from the Canterbury Bulldogs. This should help the Knights play more tactfully alongside Jarrod Mullen who will be hoping for a more productive season after injuries again cut short his season. Todd Lowrie returns to Hunter Stadium after starting his career with the club back in 2003. Micky Paea returns from Super League to link up with the Knights.
With a new coach, major signing in Hodkinson and a wealth of talent coming through the Hunter, they should be able to improve their on-field results next year.