Another disappointing season for the underachieving Newcastle Knights.
2019 Club Record
Competition Points: 22
2019 Player Achievements
Danny Buderus Medal: Mitchell Barnett
Most Tries: Kalyn Ponga (11)
Most Points: Kalyn Ponga (140)
After years of languishing at the bottom of the NRL ladder, 2019 was supposed to be the year the Knights finally returned to the finals; three solid years of building and smart recruiting under Nathan Brown finally had Newcastle with the squad they wanted.
The feeling going into the season was very positive, with the Knights’ players happy to talk up their chances, but maybe they read too much of their own press as they started the season slowly, going 1-5 in the first quarter of the year. But they were able to rally, winning seven of their next eight matches, including a six-game winning streak to put themselves in the top eight.
It’s hard to point out what went wrong from that point on, as they went on another losing streak, which culminated in Brown’s resignation and the club missing the finals for a sixth straight season. Media reports varied as to what had actually happened to derail the side’s positive season. Brown admitted he heard the rumblings that the club were looking to replace him, and there were reports he had fallen out with the players.
Without knowing the truth it’s hard to know exactly what caused their season to spiral out of control, but the way the club’s administrators, players and Brown himself handled the situation made sure a season which started with so much hope ended in disaster. No doubt the club’s expectations were not met on the field, finishing in the same position as last year, but what was more disappointing was the manner in which the players folded on the field and meekly surrendered in massive losses to the Tigers and Panthers in the closing rounds.
The Jesse Ramien situation perfectly summed up the Knights’ season; as one of the brightest prospects to hit the league last year, the impending arrival of Ramien had Knights fans just as excited as the signing of Blues enforcer David Klemmer. But in stark contrast to Klemmer – who put in a stellar year – Ramien never looked like he wanted to be there: after a run of poor uninspired performances, Ramien walked out on the club after being given the option by Brown, this was yet another nail in the Brown’s coffin.
Apart from the wholehearted efforts from Klemmer every week, and a hot run of form from Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga during the middle of the year, the rest of the squad seemed to stagnate under Brown, which may be one of the reason he and club thought it best to part ways. For a lot of those young guys who came into grade under Brown, 2020 will be an important year for them under new coach Adam O’Brien, who might not be willing to wait as long as Brown was for these guys to become week-in week-out NRL players.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
Without doubt the Knights’ best player for season 2019 was Klemmer, who ran for over 100 metres in every single game he played in a remarkable season for his new club. He was head and shoulders above the rest of his team mates, who started the year slowly and gave up well before the finish line.
2020 GAINS AND LOSSES
At this point the Knights’ squad for 2020 is still very much unknown, with plenty of players’ futures up in the air with the impending arrival of O’Brien. Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Ramien have confirmed they’re leaving the club, whilst Hermen Ese’ese, Danny Levi and James Gavet are rumoured to also being shown the door. Apart from Sharks hooker Jayden Brailey – who was signed by Brown – the Knights haven’t signed any other player for 2020, but expect them to bring through the likes of Bradman Best, Pasami Saulo & Starford Toa who saw some NRL game time this year.
Jayden Brailey (Sharks)
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Hull KR), Jesse Ramien (released), Nathan Ross (retired), Sam Stone (Titans mid-season)