knights season preview

NRL expert Steve Green has put together his mammoth season preview for 2021. We’re running through every club… today it’s the Knights season preview.

2020 recap

At the halfway mark of the season, the Knights were in outright fourth. They looked to be a genuine contender for the title after only losing three games at that point in the season. While they pulled off some big wins in the second half of the season, they also failed to turn up and suffered some humiliating losses to teams below them on the ladder. In Round 11 they lost to the last-placed Doggies. Then they were thumped by the Warriors, Roosters and the Titans in the final five matches of the year.

Out of all the teams that were in the finals, the Knights finished with the worst form by a considerable margin. On their off day, they are very bad… but they can also be very good and I think they are set to build on their 2020 finals appearance.

While their inconsistency is a big concern, I think their 2020 squad was crippled with injuries (despite players still lining up). Their form slump was the result of one of the worst injury runs I have seen from a side. At the end their key players started to struggle. Ponga and Pearce in particular were clearly nowhere near 100% with shoulder and sternum injuries at the end of the season.

This led to a massive drop off in form of their two key players. I also think the Knights sorely missed having a regular number 9 once Jayden Brailey went down injured.

As you will see below, I think the market has unfairly marked the Knights down due to the way they finished in 2020. There is some value backing them to make Top 4 in my opinion.

Knights season preview: Losses

Quite a few players have been shown the door in the offseason. Experienced forwards Andrew McCullough, Aidan Guerra, Tim Glasby, Sione Mata’utia and Herman Ese’ese all moved on or retired. Mason Lino and Tautau Moga have a ton of potential but have failed to nail down a spot in recent seasons. Out of all these guys, only Ese’ese would have been in my top 17 if he stayed in Newcastle.

Knights season preview: Gains

The big signing for the Knights, and one of the biggest pick ups of the entire NRL, is the NSW and Australian back rower Tyson Frizell. He will add some real explosiveness to this pack. He could prove to be buy of the season if he picks up where he left off for the Dragons. Blake Green also returns to the Knights, in what was a strange turn of events during his ill-fated 2020 season move to the Doggies.

Knights season preview: Rookie radar

Dominic Young is only 18, but the UK giant has a great opportunity to crack into first grade at the Knights. He has all the attributes of a great centre. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Jamal Idris when he exploded on the scene. He might find the NRL a lot tougher than what he has experienced playing for Huddersfield. But I am expecting him to make his mark in the latter part of 2021… with one centre position there for the taking.

Knights season preview: Players to watch

Jayden Brailey: The talented number 9 will provide welcome stability around the ruck. This will greatly help the form of Pearce. He’s an exceptionally good player that has been forgotten about due to his injury in early 2020. A former Australian Schoolboy and Holden Cup player of the year, Brailey was a big signing for the Knights in 2020. His injury was a massive loss, and his return will greatly help Pearce find his best form. It will also help guns like Klemmer, the Saifiti brothers, Fitzgibbon, Barnett and Frizell. All will relish receiving good service and building a relationship with a consistent number 9. I am expecting the Knights forward pack to surprise a lot of people and be one of the best packs in the competition.

Bradman Best was terrific in his breakout season and I think the young gun will only get better in 2021. He and Lee formed a great combination and with Ponga and Pearce inside him, I think Best will prove to be the Knights’ strike weapon out wide. He’s negotiating a new contract at present, so expect him to be in peak physical shape in early 2020.

Connor Watson is a game breaker and another guy that the Knights sorely missed in 2020. Another guy whose impact has been forgotten about due to the passage of time, there is talk that he may come on at 13 and spend some time wreaking havoc around the ruck. If the Knights can get Pearce, Ponga and Watson around the ruck and playing off the crafty Brailey, then I expect them to be hard to stop up the middle.

Knights season preview: Weaknesses

The Knights are a little short on gun outside backs. Starford Toa looks set to get a starting centre spot. Although he has a ton of potential, he will have to step up his game to deliver on a week by week basis. He will be challenged by guys like Tuala and Shibasako, however both players are probably a notch below being at NRL standard. As mentioned above, Dominic Young could also stake a claim for the role later in the season if he dominates at NSW Cup level (as I think he will!).

Knights season preview: Strengths

Their forward pack is very underrated, and I think they will win the battle for yardage in most games. With Mann, Ponga, Pearce and Watson, the Knights have plenty of guys capable of capitalising on field position and piling on the points.

Knights season preview: Ladder prediction

3rd

NRL season previews

Manly
Dragons
Bulldogs
Broncos

Storm
Souths
Sharks
Warriors
Eels

Steve Green is back with NRL Tips in 2021. With all of Steve's best bets and full previews of every NRL game, it's the only way to bet the NRL. Join now to start beating the bookies!

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