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Knights 2013 season preview



[INDENT] Knights Season Preview 2013
From: The Daily Telegraph

At A Glance
FINALLY, some steel back in Steel Town. More than once coach Wayne Bennett has been heard to say, in that poetic drawl of his, how he didn't believe any team went to bed last year fearing they were playing Newcastle the next day. No coach quite phrases it like Bennett, and another attribute he excels in is getting his man. The off-season purchases of Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott will have ramifications beyond just what they, personally, bring to the football paddock. Both are the best kind of athlete; they improve the performances of those around them. It puts the Knights in a good place heading into 2013.

"They know what you've got to do to be successful," Bennett said. "That rubs off on the way they train and everybody else."

Smith and Scott are another step in a team Bennett is purposely putting together and which will have little resemblance to last year's team that missed the top eight - Bennett's first September holiday since the early 1990s. Kurt Gidley is back from the dislocated shoulder that saw him play just three games. Similarly, Darius Boyd is talking more and bouncing on the training ground, reviving hopes he will regain his 2010 form. Willie Mason is rejuvenated.

"They've all won premierships with the exception of Kurt," Bennett said.

Kade Snowden is over the back injury he carried through most of last year. Neville Costigan is still as tough and David Fa'alago doesn't fade in comparison. Timana Tahu, Dane Gagai, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen ... and on it goes. This is starting to sound like a football side. Driving them, at least spiritually, will be Smith and Scott. With Fa'alago and Costigan their offsiders in the rotation, suddenly, there are no soft spots in the Knights defensive line.

"No one wants to be hit by Neville Costigan," Bennett said. "Now he has got some allies."

On top of all this the Knights are finally understanding Bennett's coaching philosophy and responding to it. They learned there is no magic bullet, just a sound base in fundamentals. The Knights go into this season fully aware of not only what's required, but what's expected. The easy rides are over. Bennett believes in extraneous pressure and internal pressure. The pressure of expectation against the pressure of making the side. The Knights are finally finding the depth to make it work.

"It drives improvement right across your club," he said. "They all realise they can't make the 17. They're all looking at ways to train better and be better without having to be prompted."

The improvements take the Knights back to their roots in many ways. Back to the days when they realised they didn't have the talent of other clubs, so the philosophy was to play harder than them. This Knights team is better placed than those days.

- Paul Kent

GAINS: David Fa'alogo (UK), Anthony Quinn (Storm), Joseph Leilua (Roosters), Beau Scott (Dragons), Jeremy Smith (Sharks)

LOSSES: Joel Edwards (Raiders), Wes Naiqama (Panthers), Junior Sau (Storm), Kyle O'Donnell (Panthers), Evarn Tuimavave (UK)

X-FACTOR: Wayne Bennett - It sounds almost too easy for the Knights, but most believe the true X-factor at the club this season will be the coach. Wayne Bennett is finally getting his way at Newcastle, the players he has and the depth at the club. With that in place, and the players now fully aware of what he wants from them as coach, most point to that as the greatest boost yet for what the club can achieve.

ROOKIE MONSTER: WILLIE Mason's younger brother Rodney has been making his way solidly through the grades at the Knights and could make his top-grade debut in 2013 after being elevated to the NRL squad. The 190cm, 106kg second-rower spent 2010 and 2011 in the Toyota Cup and last year in the NSW Cup.

THE VERDICT: THE Knights are a top-eight team for sure this year. In Jeremy Smith and Beau Scott, as well as several other astute buys, the KNights have filled the holes in thier roster to produce a solid starting 17. The only concern is the concern for every club: injury. But the Knights are hoping that last year used up enough bad luck for two seasons.


Kurt Gidley is the obvious buy at the Knights. The former SuperCoach superstar starts very cheap ($227,300) following an injury-ruined season. There could also be opportunities in Wayne Bennett’s remodelled forward pack, with young gun Mitchell Frei a cheapie to watch.


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