The Newcastle Knights were the dramatic improvers this year, compared to both the start of the season and their wooden spoon finish last year. Simon Woolford took over as head coach this year, and while it took a few games for the team to gel, he certainly got the best out of them in season 2017. The young players in the squad, including Nick Meaney and Tom Hughes, thrived under the guidance of Woolford and have certainly become better players this year largley thanks to him.
Their Highlight Moment
The Knights’ best win of the season was one of the best victories you will ever see in Rugby League. It came in Round 6 of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW season against the Penrith Panthers, who had dropped Matt Moylan, Waqa Blake and Peta Hiku due to disciplinary reasons, Tyrone May was yet to debut in NRL and was also playing, while the likes of Mitch Rein and Darren Nicholls also involved in the contest. The Panthers, who eventually won the competition, fielded one of the strongest run-out sides in second-tier history, and were upset by the young Knights 26-20.
Simply Their Best
Nick Meaney deservedly won the Knights’ Intrust Super Premiership NSW player of the year, and is one of the best up-and-coming players in their system. He was instrumental at fullback all year with his dangerous running and passing game, and also kicks goals for the Knights including a clutch conversion against Wentworthville in the wind to win the game. Meaney was in the squad for Rip Taylor’s NSW Residents team this year, and was also the fullback in Danny Buderus’ Under-20s Origin team.
Room For Improvement
The Knights were in and amongst the best eight teams in the competition this year, which is a dramatic improvement on 2016, however, they will need to drive into a higher gear if they are to be a top four side next season. As a club, the NRL side has recruited heavily for next year, including Kalyn Ponga, Connor Watson, Jacob Lillyman, Aiden Guerra, Slade Griffin and more. This will certainly strengthen the Intrust Super Premiership NSW side, as players with first grade experience will drop down and improve the side.
How It’ll Be Remembered
Season 2017 will be remembered as a dramatic improvement for the Knights, who finished with the wooden spoon last year and turned it around to make the second week of finals. If the Knights are successful both the NRL and Intrust Super Premiership next year, 2017 will be remembered as the foundation season that for so much young talent coming through the ranks.