A new coach, an overhaul of players, the same hunger - the Newcastle Knights look to avenge their 2014 VB NSW Cup Grand Final loss starting this weekend with the Manly Sea Eagles.
Rick Stone was the head coach of the Knights in their 48-12 Grand Final loss at the hands of the Penrith Panthers, and while there are a lot of new faces within the group, their 2015 coach Matt Lantry believes it is imperative for last year’s players to have learnt from those experiences.
“Those guys that were involved certainly will draw on those experiences more in and around your preparation, what worked for them last year, what didn’t work to ensure that we give ourselves the best opportunity,” said Lantry.
“But it’s not about what we did last year. It’s not about what you’ve done over the last 25 weeks, the competition sort of starts again. If you’re not up for the game on the weekend, you’re out the back door.”
While individuals will certainly draw on the experience of last year’s defeat, Lantry is adamant that there is no talk of that season within the group.
“I think last year obviously was last year, and there’s plenty of experienced blokes within that group that are no longer within our team, obviously Rick Stone was the coach,” said Lantry.
“Timana Tahu, Matt Hilder, Michael Dobson, there’s been plenty of turnover within our group. So no [we do not speak about last year], because from a team’s perspective – it’s always about what you do going forward.”
The Knights finished this year’s regular season in seventh position, which means they will have to win four games in a row to go one better than last year.
Lantry however, says his team are not getting ahead of themselves, and will take each week as it comes.
“It’s an old cliché – you can’t look any further than a week ahead. Because if you get too far ahead of yourself, particularly in the elimination semi-final this week, you find yourself out [of the competition] pretty quickly,” said Lantry.
“For us it’s ensuring we’re [in] the moment each and every time. There’s an 80-minute performance that’s required against Manly on the weekend, they’re a quality team across the park.”
Unlike this year, the Knights had the benefit of the week off last season before they beat the Illawarra Cutters 34-10 for a one-way ticket into the Grand Final.
The task at hand is obviously more difficult as the Knights finished outside the top four this season, but this is one of the closest VB NSW Cup competitions in years and certainly anyone within in the top eight has the ability to win the premiership.
The experiences of their 2014 heartbreak mixed with a newly found hunger will drive the Knights as they head into this years finals series, as they look to avenge last year’s Grand Final defeat.