Club Preview – Newcastle Knights

The Knights and have spent more than enough time as the NRL cellar dwellers and fans will be very excited to see that period well and truly over. 2018 saw a four-win improvement on the year before and better yet, the club managing to avoid the wooden spoon for the first time in four years.

After years of failings, the fans will be hungry to finally see some success, so a push for a return to the finals is the next goal. Can the Hunter boys get there this season?

Check out all our pre-season content below:

2019 Players of Interest: Read all of these here

2019 SuperCoach Club Previews: Read all of these here

2019 GAINS & LOSSES 

Gains: James Gavet (New Zealand Warriors, 2020), Tim Glasby (Melbourne Storm, 2021), Hymel Hunt (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019), David Klemmer (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2023), Edrick Lee (Cronulla Sharks, 2021), Mason Lino (New Zealand Warriors, 2020), Kurt Mann (St George Illawarra Dragons, 2021), Jesse Ramien (Cronulla Sharks, 2020), Zac Woolford (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2019)

Losses: Jack Cogger (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), JJ Collins (Canberra Raiders), Cory Denniss (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Chris Heighington (retired), Brock Lamb (Sydney Roosters), Jacob Lillyman (retired), Chanel Mata’utia (released), Pat Mata’utia (released), Nick Meaney (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Dylan Phythian (released), Ken Sio (Salford Red Devils), Luke Yates (London Broncos)

Nathan Brown’s annual recruitment drive continued in a big way in the lead up to 2019. The losses of regular playing members in Chris Heighington, Jacob Lillyman, Ken Sio, Brock Lamb and a host of younger guys were more than adequately replaced by David Klemmer, Tim Glasby, James Gavet, Jesse Ramien, Kurt Mann and more. Not to leave anyone out but they’re all listed above anyway. Point is, Newcastle is looking in much better shape coming into this season.

LIKELY STARTING 17

1 Connor Watson 2. Edrick Lee 3. Jesse Ramien 4. Hymel Hunt 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 6. Kalyn Ponga 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Tim Glasby 9. Danny Levi 10. David Klemmer 11. Lachlan Fitzgibbon 12. Sione Mata’utia 13. Aiden Guerra. Interchange: 14. Kurt Mann 15. James Gavet 16. Herman Ese’ese 17. Mitch Barnett

Who’s left: Jamie Buhrer, Slade Griffin (injured), Brodie Jones, Josh King, Mason Lino, Tautau Moga, Nathan Ross, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Pasami Saulo, Sam Stone, Zac Woolford

Most of the 17 is pretty straight forward, but where they actually fit in is another question. I think the line-up will look a little like the above, with either Barnett or Dan Saifiti in the 17 jersey. But then Barry Toohey of the Newcastle Herald believes the pack could be something along the lines of 8. Klemmer 9. Levi 10. Gavet 11. Fitzy 12. Sione 13. Glasby 14. Mann 15. Guerra 16. Ese 17. D.Saifiti.

DRAW ANALYSIS

Teams they play twice: Dragons, Warriors, Bulldogs, Roosters, Sea Eagles, Eels, Tigers, Titans, Panthers

Teams they play once: Broncos, Storm, Rabbits, Raiders, Sharks, Cowboys

First five games: Sharks (H), Panthers (H), Raiders (A), Dragons (H), Sea Eagles (H)

The powers that be were kind to the Knights when they set the 2019 draw. The opening five rounds of the year features games against three 2018 finals teams in the Sharks, Panthers and Dragons, but all three of those games are at home. In fact, the only away game Newcastle play in their first five weeks is at Canberra.

Generally speaking, there are no easy NRL games, but the hard part of the Knights schedule runs from rounds 10-15. Newcastle sees games against the Dragons (away), Roosters (home), bye, Rabbitohs (away), Storm (away), Broncos (home). Five straight games against last years finals teams will be sure to test the resolve of the club, and possibly make-or-break the season and the first bye round isn’t great for Supercoach.

In the stretch from rounds 5 to 9, the Knights play a great run of games against Manly (home), Gold Coast (away), Parramatta (home), New Zealand (away), and the Bulldogs (away/Suncorp) and the draw gets a bit friendlier again after round 15 with games against the Warriors, Bulldogs, Roosters, Tigers (twice), Sea Eagles, Eels, Cowboys, Titans and Panthers in the second half of the season.

GUNS

KALYN PONGA: (Price: $614,300, Position: 5-8/FLB, 2018 Average: 65.7)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – B

This is now the third time I’ll have written about Kalyn Ponga, so I won’t bore you with more of the same details. I still think he’s one of your best options, if not at fullback, then definitely at five-eighth. A quick recap:

  • Dual position Fullback and Five-Eighth;
  • Averaged 65.7 PPG including a 30 (HIA) and 5 (injury);
  • Regains goal-kicking duties this year;
  • Has better forward pack this year;
  • Score 51 points in 50 minutes at lock in his Origin appearance, with 29 tackles;
  • Would have won Dally M if not for injuries.

For a far more in-depth look, check out the Player of Interest on Ponga here.

LACHLAN FITZGIBBON: (Price: $576,100, Position: 2RF, 2018 Average: 61.6)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – B

Lachlan Fitzgibbon had a career year in 2018, finishing as the Knights second highest try scorer (9) and a SuperCoach average of 61.6 points. He was one of the best 2RF’s of the season and was rewarded with a contract upgrade in 2019 and extension through to 2021.

But even with the tries and attached linebreaks, Fitzy had approx. 67% of his yearly points from base stats, proving that he’s got a good work ethic and decent floor (an approx. 43 BPPG average). If Fitzy has a downfall, it’s that he had just as many scores under 50 points (8) as he had over 80 (7). However, five of those eight came in losses to the Roosters (twice), Dragons, Storm and (ahem) Titans with an average score of 29 to 14. oweverHhhHWith a better team around him, meaning less one-sided games against the Nights, those lesser games should become rarer.

SLEEPERS

JESSE RAMIEN: (Price: $492,800, Position: CTW, 2018 Average: 52.7)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – B

Ramien is a top-quality centre, the likes of which hasn’t been seen in Newcastle in many years. He’s a strong runner and finisher, recording over five tackle breaks a game and 10 tries on the season. He has only played 19 NRL games in his NRL career but already has some of the game’s most prominent experts predicting representative honours in his future.

Now he goes from playing outside of Moylan and Townsend, with Dugan at the opposite centre to contend with, to being outside of Pearce and Ponga as the teams best outside back. He’ll see plenty of football and be given every chance to display his power whenever the line is near. And he’ll have Fitzgibbon on his inside shoulder to put defenders in two minds. I’m predicting a traditional third-year breakout for the young star, and a rise to about 60 PPG.

CONNOR WATSON: (Price: $537,100, Position: 5-8/FLB, 2018 Average: 57.4)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – B

Watson began his Newcastle career in fine form, notching up back-to-back 57’s as a near-rookie priced player. Unfortunately, all the promise and potential came undone in round three when he was sidelined for over a month with a bad shoulder injury.

Then, he came back in round 8 and put up a 66.1 average across the next 11 straight games. He ended the season injured once more, but the end result was an averaged of 57 for the season. It was a 25-point increase from the year before but still an 8 point deficit from his healthy game scores. There’s a much-publicised move to fullback on the cards this year, which should help unleash his potent running game at every opportunity.

BUSTS

MITCH BARNETT: (Price: $451,200, Position: 2RF, 2018 Average: 48.2)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – D

I’ve listed him on the bench. Barry Toohey doesn’t think he’ll feature at all. Either way, it’s a huge fall for a man who was once Newcastle’s most dangerous forward. He arrived on the scene in the Hunter in hot fashion (apart from an opening game 29-point game). Except for that one, Barnett averaged 72.2 points over eight games.

That dropped to 57 points in year two as a starter, with a host of 40 ranged scores sprinkled with a few 70+ games. And it got worse last season. The 40-point games increased, sprinkled with a few sub 40 games, and only one above 70. Now, with all the added forwards to fit into the rotation, there’s a very real chance he becomes a bench player, or not playing at all. Even if he is starting in round one, it feels like it won’t be long before he becomes a serious pain in your squad.

DANNY LEVI: (Price: $361,600, Position: HOK, 2018 Average: 38.7)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – D

Levi actually looked ok playing for the Maori’s in the All-Star game, but don’t let that and the low price fool you. Browny isn’t a big fan of the former New Zealand international. Since he’s taken over the head coaching role, Nathan has relegated Levi to an interchange position and recruited Rory Kostjasyn, Slade Griffin and now Kurt Mann to play at hooker.

With the two former names seriously injured (and/or retired) and the latter name still learning the trade, Danny should be the starter this season, initially. He’ll still have Mann coming on for him after a bit, he’ll play roughly 50-55 minutes and his PPM is a rather unimpressive 0.7. There are far better options available to you. Like….

CHEAPIES

KURT MANN: (Price: $258,900, Position: CTW/HOK, 2018 Average: 27.7)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – B

Kurt Mann was a targeted recruit in the offseason, brought in by Nathan Brown to compete with Danny Levi for the starting hooker spot. And while I see Levi as a bust, Kurt Mann has the potential to be one of the better early season cash cows of 2019. Ultimately, I think he ends up as the bench utility once again, but that still means he will see more time than he was at St George. Browny has always played the dual-hookers and through the first 16 rounds last season, the “back-up” averaged 47 MPG.

Mann played 17 of his 24 games last year in either the off the bench and averaged less than 25 minutes along with 18.9 PPG. In the other seven matches, Mann played as either starting winger or five-eighth, displaying his great utility value. It’s because of these swings last year and the new role this year, that he comes with dual positioning to start at the bargain price of just $258,900. But he has the added bonus of seeing more consistent minutes than he did last season, somewhere between last year’s usage and the 68 MPG (and 50 PPG) he saw in 2017.

For a far more in-depth look, check out the Player of Interest on Mann here.

ZAC WOOLFORD: (Price: $168,100, Position: HOK, 2018 Average: N/A)

2019 Mega Guide Rating – C

I’ve got Zac Woolford down here as another cheapie, but he’s a later-in-the-year watch. Zac is yet another hooker, the third to feature on this short list. The former Raiders junior spent his last few years with the Bulldogs but never managed to crack into first grade. He did lead the Dogs NSW Cup side to a premiership though and has all the trademarks of his old man and mentor, 200+ gamer Simon Woolford.

I don’t really have any doubts in Zac’s ability once he gets on the field, but unfortunately can’t see him running out with the team for round one.

Check out all of our other 2019 Club Previews below: 

Brisbane Broncos 

Penrith Panthers

South Sydney Rabbitohs

Cronulla Sharks

Melbourne Storm

North Queensland Cowboys

Manly Sea Eagles

Canberra Raiders 

Wests Tigers

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 

Parramatta Eels

Sydney Roosters

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jordyseels
Member
Sleeper
jordyseels

Cheers for the write up. If named at lock what’s people’s thought on Tim Glasby? Finding it hard to fill the FR!

WeninRome
Admin
Gun

If he’s pushing even 50 MPG then he will earn cash.

rockafella
Member
Gun
rockafella

Mega guide rating for ponga B..i would love to know what they think is a A…But i won’t be buying it to find out…wow

WeninRome
Admin
Gun

The rating was provided before having any visibility over him in his new position. It’s completely rational for there to be some doubt on his SC output given the switch from fullback and he only has effectively one season as a sample size behind him. Don’t forget that his performance in the All Star game also put some people off. This rating will more than likely change, based on how he went in last weeks trial and perhaps this weekend, in our final update that will be released next week. Similar to about a dozen other players, including Mann (refer… Read more »

rockafella
Member
Gun
rockafella

All good mate ,i do have that feeling myself about his new position .
I meant no malice in my comment more just that i was thinking this kid is a superstar.
And i don’t buy the mega guide or read a lot of the player profiles as i feel they all mess with my thoughts on players.
I know there is a place for your guide its just not for me.

Heath
Member
Heath

I’m tempted to take a punt on Gavet. If Barry Toohey is right and he usually is – a starting FRF position could see him get 45-50 mpg. I think he would only need an average of 50 to make $80k. Knights schedule up to the byes looks good. Not sure if it’s too risky or a good stepping stone to another FRF for run home post byes. Knights are stacked with forward options though

GIJose
Member
GIJose

Ramien’s potential depends heavily on what side of the field he ends up playing. The Knight’s right hand edge looked super clunky in the trial last week,