With the 2017 draw now locked in, Knights TV sat down with coach Nathan Brown to discuss the challenges and opportunities that next year will throw up.
Brown’s first impressions
“I think it’s exciting,” Brown said of next year’s fixtures.
“But with the draw at this stage there may be sides that did really well last year but won’t do so well next year, and vice versa.”
With the Knights playing six of last year’s top eight twice, the draw looks like a tough assignment at first.
But the fortunes of different teams shift from year to year, and Brown says it’s a hard task to predict who will be finishing in the top eight at this early stage.
“Sometimes it is hard to get a gauge early on of who’s going to be a top eight side, and who’s not,” he explained.
“But what we do know in the NRL these days is that every game is a hard game.”
On the start of the season
First up in 2017, the Knights will be jetting off to New Zealand to take on the Warriors.
It’s a tough first assignment, but Brown sees it as a good opportunity for the young team to show how they’ve developed over the pre-season.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to be honest with you,” he said.
“I’m sure there will be a big crowd and the Warriors obviously have a very strong team.
“To go over there and start the season I think will be a really good opportunity for our squad to show signs that we’ve made a big improvement.”
On the four home games in six weeks following Round 1
Following the Round 1 away match in Auckland, the red and blues will play four of their next six games at McDonald Jones Stadium.
That will provide Knights fans and early opportunity to support their team, and Brown says the team wants to repay the faith shown last year.
“With the loyalty that the fans showed last year, we’d love all of our home performances to be good,” he said.
“We want to reward the fans that showed faith last year, and again we want to put down a marker that we have improved.”
On hosting the reigning premiers on Old Boys Day
At the other end of the season, the Knights will be hosting the Cronulla Sharks on Old Boys Day in Round 26.
This is sure to be one of the must-see matches of the season, as Brown’s young team takes on 2016’s premiers.
“The fact that Cronulla are premiers probably adds a little bit to it,” Brown said.
“Obviously as a player I came here a lot, and Old Boys Day is always a big day in Newcastle.
“The fact that it’s against the Sharks next year is a bonus.”
On how the new signings will help shape the squad
The recruitment of Jamie Buhrer, Rory Kostjasyn, Ken Sio and Josh Starling provides some good depth and quality experience, with the four players bringing nearly 400 games of NRL experience to the Club.
Brown says they have already had a big impact on the 2017 pre-season, and thinks they will accelerate the development of the team.
“The new signings, in particular the ones that have had their fair share of experience, have brought a lot to the table,” he said.
“Not only experience out on the paddock, but in amongst video sessions and individual development.
“Those players brought to the Club were brought for more than just their experience on the field, and they’re going to help the young guys develop.”