Avoiding the Wooden Spoon will be worthy of a celebration in Newcastle!
They will be lining Beaumont Street with red and blue streamers as far as the eyes can see. The motorcade will pass through the Darby street precint carrying Brock Lamb, Sione Mata’utia and Nathan Ross as the wave to the thousands who have packed the streets. This year, Newcastle will do the unthinkable and something that no one thought could happen. The Knights will finish 15th on this years ladder.
Finishing 15th out of a pool of 16 may not seem special but it is important to look back to put things in perspective. At the end of the 2016 season, the Newcastle Knights had hit rock bottom. Only managing to scrape out one win and a draw, having a points differential of negative 495 and no marque signings for 2017, the side was again picked to struggle. Despite a young and inexperienced playing roster, calls came from all corners of the game to sack Nathan Brown. He has started to prove the doubters wrong and give the faithful Novacastrian supporter base hope with a fantastic end to the season.
The Knights of 2017 are vastly improved from the side that capitulated the year before. After Fridays’s dominant performance against the red hot Eels, the side picked up their sixth win of the season. This against a team who everyone were picking as a top four certainty and who had everything to play for. This was the same situation two weeks earlier where the Knights shocked the Dragons, a side that were coming in after demolishing the Eagles only a week earlier. This pride and commitment shown by Newcastle is positive signs for the years ahead.
The trick to avoiding the wooden spoon will be the Knights performance in their final three games. They play a premiership favourite in the Storm, a what could be desperate Raiders side hoping to make the finals in the penultimate round and finish their season against last years premiers the Sharks. While the game against the Storm is a write off, Nathan Brown’s men have already beaten Canberra earlier in the year and were narrow losers to a Cronulla side who find themselves in a bit of a form slump at this side of the year. The trick will be showing plenty of courage and playing tough football which the Knights have shown in their recent victories.
If the Newcastle Knights avoid the wooden spoon this year, it should be a long time before they find themselves in a situation like this again. They have recruited a wide range of talented players from future superstars in Kalyn Ponga, breakthrough talent in Tautau Moga and solid veterans in Aiden Guerra who will give the side confidence moving forward. This year is about restoring some pride in the jersey and shaking off a losing culture which seems to be working pretty well so far!
Regardless of what happens, 2017 should be seen as a successful one. The Knights have won games, have been competitive and have managed to develop some talent which will put them in good stead for years to come. Unlike the premiership contenders, the Knights will be hoping that nothing gets added to their trophy cabinet this year. The time for collecting wooden cutley is over.