The most anticipated move of this NRL offseason finally happened, with (former) Dogs prop David Klemmer making the move to join the Newcastle Knights on a five year, roughly $4.3M deal. Klemmer hasn’t made a secret of his desire to move on from the Dogs, but several factors needed to play out before he got his wish and subsequent huge pay day. One of those was that Canterbury weren’t about to just let the Australian and NSW forward walk away without a ready-made replacement to fill the void. They found that in Origin counterpart Dylan Napa, who dives head first into the vacated Dogs front row position from the reigning premiers for the next three seasons.
Not only does Klemmer make the Knights a far more formidable pack, but his mongrel and go forward will help those players around him, and that will lead to Supercoach points. Klemmer’s work rate will help to drive the ball up the field and set a platform that the halves can work off. What that means is more attacking opportunities; more scoring. With all the additions over the past two off-season’s, Newcastle are in a good spot to set themselves up for a boost across the board. Klemmer himself may not benefit greatly as far as SuperCoach goes (he already averaged 56 minutes and 58 points), but his arrival has the potential to give the Knights strike weapons a nice bump in scoring.
Kalyn Ponga will be the greatest benefactor. He’s already a star of the league, but Brown is now floating the idea of getting him into the #6 jersey beside Mitchell Pearce. It will see him getting his hands on the ball every set and won’t be a huge change as he was playing a sort of floating playmaking role last year from fullback. It will also mean he’s right in the thick of the action. He and Connor Watson will be glued to Klemmer’s hip on every hit up waiting for an offload. He doesn’t offload often (24 in 22 games), but when he did, he averaged 8 extra metres gained. And that was with Kieran Foran, Lachlan Lewis, JMK and Will Hopoate as the recipients. Pearce, Ponga and Watson are a bit of an improvement on that lot. Besides, more points scored equals more tries, try assists and goals for KP.
Klemmer missed a total of two games last season: rounds 17 and 21. Rhyse Martin had scores of 153 and 87 in those games. That’s not too bad I suppose. It appears less forward competition is a good thing for him. Dylan Napa is coming in but doesn’t have nearly the same tank or impact as Klemmer. He’s more there as a defensive unit. And RFM will be returning to the lineup in the new year from his injury layoff but plays out wide. I don’t see how the returning players hinder Martin’s potential. He’ll be steeply priced but may be worth a play based on that very small sample size.
It’s hard to call the Dogs a winner on this one. Yes, they were going to lose Klemmer anyway, and yes, they managed to replace him with another rep prop, but it’s not the same is it. Unless you’re talking about missing Sam Thaiday, Napa paled in comparison to the man he’s replacing. He averaged 42 minutes and 31 Supercoach points a game, a far cry from Klemmer’s 56 and 58 respectively.
Knights Front Row
From an NRL standpoint, this is great for the young Knights pack. Klemmer is instantly a leader in the engine room for the kids to learn from. He was the #1 forward in the league for metres gained per game with 181, and 2nd only to Jason Taumalolo for post-contact metres (75). That latter mark was over 30 metres more a game than the Knights leader in the same category.
But from a SuperCoach perspective, Herman Ese’ese and the Saifiti Twins are now competing for minutes with DK, Tim Glasby and James Gavet, who just joined from Melbourne and New Zealand respectively. This might also have a flow on effect to the 2nd Rowers if Ese-ese shifts to lock for parts of the game. It’s created a log jam in the forwards that hasn’t been seen in Newcastle since the glory days.
Keep an eye out for a more in-depth analysis when the 2019 team previews start dropping in the new year.
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