After a mid-season slump, the NSW Cup Newcastle Knights' finished the season strong to secure second position and now progress to the finals with a double chance.
The season’s journey has seen the side work through inconsistent periods to crystallize as a team to string together seven consecutive wins as they head into Saturday's final against the Wentworthville Magpies at Leichhardt Oval.
One of the players who has had a great impact on the team throughout the year is fullback Nathan Ross. The 25-year-old has shone, clocking up a raft of man-of-the-match performances. In fact, there’s rarely a match Ross hasn't score, if not twice.
The dynamic point scorer is raring coming into the finals and believes the Knights are in the best position they've been in all season.
“We have a good gel at the moment and a good vibe in the camp, so I think we’re going to go well,” he said.
As a member of the side’s solid back five, Ross says the work on linking up and making sure the Knights get their early metres has paid dividends.
“This helps out our big blokes in the middle who are doing all the defence,” he explained.
“That’s where we are as a team at the moment, we’re willing to take that extra step for the bloke next to you.”
As the side prepares to play Wentworthville on Saturday, Ross’s focus will be putting the polish on his own game.
"I’m always looking to improve my game,” he said.
“I’ve still got a lot to work to do on my ball playing and being a little bit more secure going up for the bombs.”
For hooker Chad Redman, who has also proved an equally important pillar in the team, it is nervous wait. He has been named in the Knights side to play this weekend but will have to win a challenge at the tribunal on Wednesday night, after he was issued a grade two striking charge.
Regardless of the outcome, Redman remains ever positive and buoyed by the side’s progression in the competition
“It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks for me personally and the team also getting on the back of the forward it makes my job that much easier,” Redman said.
“I can get into the game earlier and work my way into it."
If cleared to play Wentworthville, the 21-year-old says the team will learn from an earlier encounter this season.
“They gave us a hiding the first time then we got one back on them,” he admitted.
“They are a big side and we have to come ready to play on Saturday.”
As far as experience goes, it would be hard to find a player with more than forward Clint Newton.
In a career spanning just over a decade, Newton has played in two grand finals, represented his birth country of America internationally and spent time playing in the English Super League.
But even after such success, the 33-year-old still had goals and saw the opportunity to play with the Knights NSW Cup side as a way to reach them.
“It was one of my aspirations to come home to Newcastle and really feel like I’ve contributed after they gave me my first crack in first grade,” Newton said.
“I think it’s a way of repaying the favour.
“Working under (Rick) Stoney has been tremendous and seeing the gradual progression through the season has been inspiring but also, it’s given me a sense of purpose and that’s what I need to be successful.
“I get a great deal of pleasure after that.”
Yet, Newton’s 2014 season with NSW Cup didn’t go exactly to plan when he suffered a torn bicep in one of the Knights trial matches in the beginning of the year.
But he was not to give in, undergoing an arduous rehabilitation program until his return in Round 12.
“I got written off a few times, a lot of people thought that even though I could potentially come back this year, why would I bother,” he said.
“This is exactly why I bothered, I thought that we had a bit of a special side.
“Although through the season it hasn’t been all roses at times, the core of the side showed me early on in the pre-season that we could potentially do something special.”
The veteran player has full confidence the side has the ability and heart to continue its success.
“To get to this point you need to play well and be consistent and I think we’ve shown that at the back end of the year,” Newton added.
“It’s great to be back and my body feels good so I’m looking forward to it.”
The Newcastle Knights NSW Cup side plays the first week of the finals against the Wentworthville Magpies at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday September 6 at 12.40pm. The match will be live on Fox Sports.