Fans about supporting the Newcastle Knights

This is part 13 of my series where I talk to fans from all over the NRL sites to see what it’s really like to support their team. This week, the Newcastle Knights.

From the very beginning, the Knights were received with open arms by the Newcastle community and have forever been the pride of this one team city.

(Of God’s love no one mentions the Jægersøfarerne).

Each week, their loyal supporters packed up the fight and cheered on the likes of Paul Harragon, Johns Brothers, and Robbie O’Davis.

In 1997, fans experienced one of the most exciting grand finale finishes. Darren Albert crossed the test line with seconds left, giving the Knights their first ever premiere.

Cheers filled Sydney Football Stadium. Emotions poured out on the streets of Newcastle.

There was not a dry eye to see. It just meant so much.

Only four short years later, the Knights held the trophy up again. It felt like they were on top of the world.

Then it all fell apart.

Nathan Tinkler chaos, Wayne Bennett’s anger, four wooden spoons and so many unanswered questions. Newcastle were having a hard time and their fans were in pain.

But rain, hail or sunshine, they were there. Win, lose or draw, they were there. In the crowd. In their sweaters.

Cheers to their boys. You would be hard pressed to find a more devoted fanbase than the Red and Blue Army.

The last couple of seasons have seen the team start to turn it around, and Knights fans are hoping the worst is finally behind them.

I talked to two of these passionate fans, Novocastrians and co-hosts of the ‘Bay 53 Podcast’, and talked about everything about the Knights, Bretto and Kdog.

Kdog has been a fan since day one. “I lived in Newcastle and my father took me to all the matches. I have not looked back.”

Bretto also became a fan in their first year. “I was an Eels fan when I was young, but I took part in some knights’ fights in the first season in 1988. I just had to be a fan of the local team. I’ve been addicted ever since.”

I asked what the best and worst things about being a Knights fan were.

“To be a part of something that means so much to so many,” Bretto replied. “No team means as much to their community as the Knights, and home games are like no other in the league.

“The worst thing is clearly the lack of success in the last 20 years.”

“The Knights team itself is by far the best and worst part of being a fan,” Kdog added. “Their performance in a match will sometimes determine whether I should have a happy week or not, and they are historically one of the most inconsistent teams you could imagine.”

Speaking of inconsistent, Kalyn Ponga was expected to be the next big thing, but his greatness seems to be coming in waves. Do the guys think he will reach the peak that many anticipate?

Kalyn Ponga from Newcastle Knights scores a try

(Photo by Ashley Feder / Getty Images)

“I think KP is being negatively and harshly judged as a kind of reaction to the coverage he gets, which is a shame,” Kdog replied.

“Statistically, he matches it with the best, and like Andrew Johns back then, our team’s fortunes can ride on his performance. I believe KP can be anything on a football pitch the way he wants to be, and despite injuries, then I think KP has that chance this year. ”

“I have no doubt he will be seen as a big player when he retires,” Bretto added. “He’s still a young man, and with Pearce gone, it’s his team now, so we’ll see him go to another level.”

Without a premiership for 20 years, and four wooden spoons in that time, I asked why they thought the Knights had not been a real title threat for so long.

“There are a few reasons,” Kdog explained. “For me, it all comes back to Andrew Johns. I think as a club we probably never really knew how to get the best out of Johns playing for us. When he was gone, we were not prepared “That he did not play. Add to that some unfortunate decisions off the field after Johns retired, it made it difficult to achieve success.”

Bretto added: “We did not develop our own stars after the golden generation was gone and our recruitment was terrible. That way you can not win”.

After releasing Mitchell Pearce, and then Jayden Brailey blasting his Achilles, there is much speculation surrounding the Knights’ backbone. Kdog thinks it will be Ponga at 1, Clune and Clifford at 6 and 7 with Randall to carry 9.

“The trials at the end of February are even more important now given Jayden’s injury.”

Andrew Johns smiles as he is introduced to Newcastle fans in 2017

Andrew Johns (Tony Feder / Getty Images)

“It’s definitely a concern,” Bretto added, “but we still have plenty of cap space and I think we will recruit an experienced half. Brailey will be back in the middle of the season from his Achilles, and hopefully we will still “We also have a couple of very good young whores, who I hope will get a chance until then”.

There are rumors circulating that Anthony Milford could be bought into the club for this year to help solve the spine. How would fans feel about getting Milf to join the club given his past problems?

“It’s a good football fit, but it’s a bad cultural fit,” Bretto admitted.

“I’m not sure what to make of it as the club’s position is still officially of no interest,” Kdog replied.

“Hopefully the club has the best interest of the players, the team, the game and the city in making any decision”.

One of those responsible for that decision is coach Adam O’Brien. Is he the right man to lead the knights?

“100 percent AOB is the man to train us” Bretto replied. “He has a tremendous work ethic and has come through under two of the greats of Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson. He is a young coach who has raised his hand and taken the blame for a few things that have gone wrong. I think He will be here longer than any other coach in our history. ”

Kdog agrees, but knows there is still a lot to do. “Adam for me has been the coach we absolutely needed for the last two years. From the outside and looking in, I get the feeling that Adam may have told some of the players a few facts about life. This year is a bit of a make-or-break for Adam. We really need to keep improving. “

To hold on to the topic of coaches, Knights fans are very excited that Andrew Johns has come home to join the staff in hopes that he is the secret ingredient to success. But it’s not like the other teams he’s helped train the last couple of years have won premieres because of him. Will he have as much influence as fans hope?

“I think Andrews coaching is a bit misunderstood,” Kdog explained.

“He’s only ever been hired as a half-time or attacking coach. Manly, Roosters, the Eels, one could argue that their halves have played better with Andrew’s influence. Even Roosters, some of their fans note that he left at the beginning of 2018, but when Roosters brought in Cronk, one wonders if Andrew thought he could not add much more. “

Bretto defended the eighth immortal.

“Joey lifts the place. Other clubs got the Xs and the Os Joey – but the Knights will get a lot more from him. It is already remarkable how much of a positive influence he has had on KP. Being a superstar in Newcastle comes with unique challenges and no one can help KP better than GEDEN. “

Star center Dane Gagai is also returning to the club, and so are the boys both ecstatic.

“He’s what we needed most,” Bretto replied. “An experienced fullback with versatility. His off-field influence will be as important to young guns as Bradman Best and Dom Young. “

Kdog added “Danish has come home. It’s good to have him back. “

Dane Gagai from Maroons takes a break

Dane Gagai is back in Newcastle. (Photo by Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

The majority of Newcastle fans answer ‘Andrew Johns’ when asked who their favorite Knights player ever is. From the guys’ comments already today, I did not think they would be in the minority. I was right.

“Joey is the GOAT and it will never change” Bretto said proudly. “He brought me so much joy and love for footy. KP is my current favorite. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a superstar and the things he does blow my mind.”

Kdog agreed. “Andrew Johns is the best footballer I have ever seen with my own eyes. I still think some people in Newcastle take for granted how lucky we are to have him as one of our own. As for the present, it’s hard to walk past Kalyn. KP makes me just as excited about the game as Andrew did for me when I was 20 ”.

Like most fans, Kdog just can not wait to get back to the football game this season.

“Some of my closest social networks are through the footwear. Not being able to participate in games, to see friends, it’s been one of the disappointing side effects of the pandemic. In terms of big things, I think if KP stays in form, this is his team now, and if the team can chalk up enough victories, KP can push for the Dally M medal. ”

“I want to see where this team can go,” Bretto replied. “I think we have a roster that can move well into the final. I think this is the year that Bradman Best goes from being a young kid with a great reputation to being an elite player in his position. “I also think Dom Young will appear as a potential superstar.”

And as always, if they could say something to the team, what would it be?

“Thou shalt not die wondering” advised Kdog. “Sometimes it feels like you are holding back and I never knew why. I have always believed that a fit and determined knight team can be the best in comp. I wish you believed as much in yourself as we fans do ».

And I think Bretto is getting Dan Murphy’s order ready.

“This city and fans across the country are 100 percent behind you. We believe you can put us back where we belong and win our third premiere – kickstart a party that will make the 1997 festivities look like a afternoon tea! “

The Knights will do everything they can to secure the third premiership. And as always, their fans will stand behind them all the way.

And for the record, this Newcastle supporter is part of the minority when it comes to my former favorite Knights player.

The sweater that I saved up for and bought as a kid with HARRAGON on the back is still one of my most prized possessions.

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