Newcastle Knights 2024 season preview

Newcastle Knights 2024 season preview

2023 recap

After a dismal 2022, the Knights bounced back in style last year to claim a 5th-place finish and a first home finals match in 15 years. The first half of their season didn’t give any clues as to what was to come, as they picked up just three wins in their opening nine games and coach Adam O’Brien was the bookies’ hot favourite to lose his job. A spectacular surge at the back end of the campaign saw them coast into the top eight though, as they finished the regular season with nine straight wins and then edged past the Raiders in week one of the finals. In their semi-final they were comfortably beaten 40-10 by the Warriors, but it’s fair to say that 2023 was a year of solid progress for Newcastle.

2023 position: 5th

Key signings

Jed Cartwright (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jack Cogger (Penrith Panthers), Tom Jenkins (Penrith Panthers), Kai Pearce-Paul (Wigan Warriors), Will Pryce (Huddersfield Giants)

Key departures

Fa’amanu Brown (Hull FC), Adam Clune (Huddersfield Giants), Lachlan Fitzgibbon (Warrington Wolves), Bailey Hodgson (Manly Sea Eagles), Oryn Keeley (The Dolphins), Kurt Mann (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Lachlan Miller (Leeds Rhinos), Ryan Rivett (Toulouse Olympique), Simi Sasagi (Canberra Raiders), Dominic Young (Sydney Roosters)

Players to watch

I can’t wait to see how Kai Pearce-Paul gets on in the NRL. The 23-year-old has arrived from Wigan Warriors with bags of potential and a fair bit of experience too, having played almost 60 games during his trophy-filled career in Super League, as well as three times for England. The second rower looks likely to miss the start of 2024 but I’m expecting a big impact from him when he’s fit.

Kalyn Ponga bounced back from some major concussion issues in the early part of the season to claim the Dally M medal for the NRL’s Player of the Year. Having started 2024 in the halves, his move back to fullback was the spark he needed to ignite his season, and if Newcastle are going to achieve anything in 2024 they’ll need another big year from him.

Young gun

Will Pryce is the other young Englishman to join the Knights in 2024 alongside Kai Pearce-Paul. The 21-year-old played almost 50 games in Super League for Huddersfield Giants and weighed in with 17 tries from fullback and five-eighth. With Kalyn Ponga locked in at fullback, Pryce’s best chance of a run in the starting side will come in the halves, and he’s got the talent to make the number 6 jersey his own this year if given the chance.

Our prediction – 10th

I can’t help thinking the Knights played above themselves in 2023 and will come back down to earth with a bump this year. Momentum can do a lot for a team, and their nine-game winning run is what got them into such a high position, but I can’t see them finding that level of consistency again in 2024. If Kalyn Ponga can stay injury-free and perform at the levels he showed last year again, they have every chance of another finals push, but I can’t see them making it.

Darren Notley

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