Despite the NSW Cup premiership slipping through the Newcastle Knights fingers yesterday, coach Rick Stone has commended his team for a memorable season.
In a disappointing grand final result, the Knights went down to the Penrith Panthers 42-12 at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
But Stone maintains he’s proud of the way the team fought back from an early season slump to make their way to the grand final and string nine wins together in the back end of the competition.
“42 to 12 is probably not a fair reflection on our season to be honest,” he told Knights TV after the match.
“But it’s about playing well enough on the day and Penrith were great today.
“We lacked in a few areas and obviously weren’t quite on our game and that’s what happens against a quality team.
"There were a couple of dubious passes in the first half that probably rattled us a little.
“But to be honest, we needed to tackle better than that, there were too many line breaks for a grand final and it just goes to show that Penrith are a really good attacking team."
At halftime, the Knights were very much still in the contest with Stone using the break to reiterate the need to steal back the momentum.
“I thought we earned a little bit in the second half, we probably just didn’t manage the end of our sets as well as we would have liked," he said.
“We controlled possession pretty well in the second half and gave ourselves a chance, but Penrith is a pretty classy outfit and didn’t make too many errors and they didn’t give us too much in the second half."
Stone conceded a heavy loss for the side was halfback Michael Dobson, who sustained a foot injury in the previous week's preliminary final.
“He’s a great part of our team and is a halfback that can bring that sort of composure and execution to a reserve game,” Stone said.
“Defensively we didn’t play to our best, but overall it’s been a good season.
“The boys have been great to work with and are a really tight bunch of boys.
"I’ve really enjoyed working with them.”
The game marked the final chapter for a number of the players including Matt Hilder, Timana Tahu, Michael Dobson, Josh Mantellato and Matt Minto who are departing the Club.
“Blokes like Timana and Matt Hilder have been really significant players for this team for the generosity that they’ve had as far as sharing with the other boys and teaching some of the younger blokes about what the standards are like to play NRL,” Stone said.
“They’ve been great and I’ve been really proud of how they’ve mixed.
“They’ve definitely made things easy for everyone and shows the quality of those boys."
Now Stone’s focus shifts to his next role as head coach of the NRL Knights with Matt Lantry taking the reigns of NSW Cup in 2015.
‘There’s a bit of planning to go, but the final pieces of the jigsaw are coming into place and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said.