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2022 SEASON REVIEW: Newcastle Knights

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Elinya Chenery reviews the 2022 Season of the Newcastle Knights, where they finished 14th on the ladder.

Stats

Wins: 6
Losses: 18
Most Tries: Edrick Lee (14)
Most Points: Edrick Lee (56)
Club Player of the Year: Tyson Frizell

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A Memorable Year for All the Wrong Reasons

Newcastle came into season 2022 with high hopes after making the 2021 finals series (but were knocked out in the elimination final). With an exciting new halves pairing in the form of Jake Clifford and Adam Clune arriving in the Hunter, many had the Knights slated to scrape into the top eight at the end of the regular season. Unfortunately for long-suffering Novocastrians, the once-promising team would end up losing three times the amount of matches they won, and were only competing for the wooden spoon.

The boys in red and blue came out strong, with a dominant performance against the Sydney Roosters at the SCG to open their season, coming away with the two points after defeating the home side 20-6. With a convincing victory over the Tigers the following weekend, it appeared as though the Knights were set for a big year.

In typical Newcastle fashion, however, it was largely downhill from there. The side only managed to scrape another four wins the entire season, and these victories came against the Bulldogs (12th), Warriors (15th), and again against the Tigers, who eventually finished on the bottom of the ladder.

Injuries plagued them, with superstars Kalyn Ponga, Bradman Best, and Dane Gagai all spending lengthy stints on the sideline throughout the season. Newcastle fielded not one, not two, but seven different halves pairings over 25 rounds, along with playing without first-choice hooker Jayden Brailey for a large chunk of the season as he recovered from a torn Achilles.

A shining light in the darkness, Dominic Young put on a show each week and proved himself a first-grade player in a breakout year for the towering Englishman. With 14 tries in 20 games, it’s no wonder he played himself into England’s World Cup side.

Jacob Saifiti also produced an impressive individual season, stringing together games after a terrible run with injury over the last few years, and making his debut in the Origin arena.

Ponga was, as we’ve come to expect, the star of the games he played this season. With heroic defensive efforts and dangerous attacking plays, his loss was certainly felt tremendously when he went down with injury this year.

The Knights have picked up some handy additions to the squad for 2023, with Jack Hetherington (Bulldogs), Adam Elliott (Raiders), and Tyson Gamble (Broncos) all joining the team next season. They will be missing Edrick Lee, Anthony Milford, Mitchell Barnett, and Tex Hoy next year, among others.

With the powers-that-be appearing to stand by struggling head coach Adam O’Brien, will these changes to the roster be what the Knights need to finally produce a season worthy of celebration? Maybe a hit-out with their premiership-winning counterpart in the NRLW could be of assistance? Perhaps a run without injuries could create an environment in which this team could succeed? You never know what you’re going to get with the Knights, and it is once again anyone’s guess as to where next season will see them end up.

NothingButLeague Knights Player of 2022: Dominic Young and Kalyn Ponga (6)

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Dominic Young
Matches: 20
Tries: 14
Run Metres: 2,518
Tackle Bursts: 78

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Kalyn Ponga
Matches: 14
Tries: 4
Try Assists: 7
Run Metres: 1,482

Other Points: 4 Adam Clune, Jake Clifford, Tyson Frizell; 3 Edrick Lee; 2 Enari Tuala, Mitch Barnett; 1 Anthony Milford, Dane Gagai, David Klemmer, Euan Aitken, Tex Hoy

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