Record: 1 win, 1 draw, 22 losses
Ladder Position: Last
Player of the Year: Dane Gagai
It was always going to be a tough season for the Knights under new coach Nathan Brown after the club finished last in 2015.
One win and one loss wasn’t in the Knight’s calculations when they set out to blood some youth this season around former Origin half Trent Hodkinson and Queensland Maroon centre Dane Gagai.
Since April 4, 2015 the club has won of 5 and drawn 1 of it’s 44 matches.
At times the results were embarrassing for their loyal fans who continued to support the club week in, week out. To a point that Newcastle crowds were outperforming some Sydney based clubs.
There has to be a silver lining soon with a bunch of fresh players to the club trying to establish themselves in the top grade.
Is Nathan Brown the right fit?
Nathan Brown was handed the reigns of Newcastle at the end of last season ahead of club favourite Danny Buderus.
Brown was successful to some point with the Dragons with a well-established side and that success followed him into Super League with Huddersfield and St Helens.
This year demonstrated that Brown isn’t the man to take on this herculean job which is as much coaching as it is nurturing. The task includes reinvigorating the giant rugby league nursery in the Hunter.
As for the attraction for star NRL players to play under coach Brown, that would be minimal.
There’s a coach in waiting – Ivan Cleary. He’s worked wonders with junior development with great success at New Zealand Warriors and more recently with the Penrith Panthers.
As the Dragons board stick with an under performing Paul McGregor, now’s the perfect opportunity to approach Cleary before he’s snapped up.
While Brown is on a three-year contract, early next year will be pivotal to whether he survives a second season with poor results.
Trent Hodkinson career nosedive
Trent Hodkinson was the headline buy for Newcastle’s 2016 campaign.
It was a hefty cost for the former Bulldog halfback as he struggled to find any form. Hodkinson missing out on representing New South Wales just two years after he was part of the winning outfit.
His game is set around tactical play which was often missing with Newcastle constantly on the back foot.
It’s fair to say he lacked a play maker outside him to call the shots, something a fit Jarrod Mullen would have filled.
What the Bulldogs would have done to have Hodkinson back at their club after a season plagued by a lack of creativity inside the opponents twenty.
The question is – can Trent Hodkinson resurrect his career in 2017 at the age of 29?
Exciting talent coming through
Newcastle had no choice but to throw some kids into the fire of NRL. Unfortunately they didn’t have the success like Nathan Cleary experienced at the Panthers with his initiation to the top grade.
Seventeen of the thirty-five players used by Nathan Brown were either 22 or younger.
The best of the bunch were Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Dylan Phythian, Jaelen Feeney and Danny Levi.
It’s worth mentioning Mitchell Barnett signed on from the Raiders this year was a much needed burst of energy into a tired Knights pack. He looks ‘NRL material’.
With those players there’s a nucleus of a competitive side in 2017 and within a few years knocking on the door of making a finals berth for the first time since 2013.
2017 GAINS AND LOSSES
GAINS: Mitchell Barnett (Canberra Raiders), Jamie Buhrer (Manly Sea Eagles), Brendan Elliot (Sydney Roosters), Rory Kostjasyn (North Queensland Cowboys), Peter Mata’utia (St George Illawarra Dragons)
LOSSES: James McManus (retired), Robbie Rochow (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tariq Sims (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jeremy Smith (retired), Kade Snowden (retired), Akuila Uate (Manly Sea Eagles)