Season breakdown: Assets and room to improve

To improve in 2019, you need to understand where things went wrong last season.

Sure, it was a year of growth for the nib Newcastle Knights but this team has plenty of room for growth.

In setting the building blocks for the new season, we've analysed the numbers to pin-point the team's greatest strengths.

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We've also highlighted the weaknesses and players who need to make tweaks to their game.

Here's what we've found.

ATTACK


KICKING GAME

Mitchell Pearce has one of the best kicking games in the competition.

He led the competition for average kick metres for 2018 with 413.1 per game.

In a game where field position is crucial, a giant boot like Pearce possesses is a massive advantage.

SCORING POINTS


Keeping in mind Pearce only managed 15 games last year due to injury, he finished 14th overall in the competition for try assists with 13. 

Johnathan Thurston finished on top for assists, setting up 26 tries in 24 games.

If the Knights can keep Pearce on the field, the points will come.

Kalyn Ponga set up 11 tries in 20 appearances and scored six of his own.

Keeping Pearce and Ponga on the field at the same time proved difficult in 2018 but as a combination, there's evidence to suggest they'll be a giant headache for oppositions defence next year providing they can stay healthy.


Ponga also leads the stats for line break assists at the Club.

With the attack revolving around Pearce and Ponga, the Knights need both men on the field.

The Knights finished on 414 points in 2018 with a completion rate of 77%, while South Sydney finished the season as top point scorers on 582.

As a unit, there's room for improvement on this front.

Winger Ken Sio was the top point scorer for the Knights last season with 12 tries. 


MAKING METRES

Kalyn Ponga made 140 tackle busts in 2018.

James Tedesco led the competition with 158 in 25 games.

New recruit, Jesse Ramien is an attacking ace who averages 110.5 metres per game and made 63 tackle breaks in 20 games last season.


In the forwards, Herman Ese'ese led the pack with 74 tackle busts, the second most for the Knights behind Kalyn Ponga.

He also averaged 123.4 run metres per game, the second most behind Ponga once again.

David Klemmer will add some punch to the pack.

The new recruit made the second most post-contact metres of any forward with 1,650.

Lachlan Fitzgibbon is a hard-running edge ready to send his game to another level with the young gun making 12 line breaks, scoring nine tries and 51 tackle busts last year.


Daniel Saifiti also finished the year in menacing fashion.

With another pre-season under his belt and his body injury free, expect the big unit to be primed for an exciting 2019.

KICKING GOALS

Kalyn Ponga and Ken Sio both took on the responsibility last season.

Ponga started the year with the kicking duties before Sio finished the year off.

Ponga kicked 27 goals and Sio kicked 25.

DEFENCE

TACKLERS


Aidan Guerra finished the year as the Knights' top tackler with 954 for the season.

Injured rake Slade Griffin was second on 34.6 and Herman Ese'ese averaged the third most tackles with 31.3.

To put Guerra's efforts into perspective with the rest of the competition, Roosters hooker Jake Friend made 1162 tackles last year, Cameron McInnes 1147, Damien Cook 1021, Jake Trbojevic 968 and Matt Eisenhuth 963.

MISSED TACKLES

The Knights conceded 607 last year.

They had the second worst defensive record of any NRL side with Manly beating them on 622.

With a tackle efficiency scoring of 88.1%, it's no secret this is the area with the greatest room for improvement.

The Club conceded an average of 25.3 points per game in 2018.


Mitch Barnett averaged 3.2 missed tackles per game this season, the most of anyone in the team, finishing the year with 74 misses.

James Maloney led the competition with 131 misses for Penrith.

Josh King has received plenty of criticism on social media of late but he only averages one missed tackle per game.

The arrival of Tim Glasby in the middle is a timely one with the Melbourne forward brilliant in defence.

He had a tackle efficiency of 91 percent for 2018.

ERRORS


Aidan Guerra conceded 17 penalties in 2018, the equal most with Mitch Barnett.

Danny Levi gave away penalties, the third most for the Knights, but no Knights player had anything on Andrew Fifita who conceded a whopping 32 penalties in 2018.

While Kalyn Ponga is an attacking whiz, he topped the error rate for the Knights with 28.

But let's put that into perspective. Titans half Ash Taylor made the most of anyone in the competition with 51.

Sione Mata'utia made 26 mistakes last year, Pearce made 24 and Shaun Kenny-Dowall made 19 errors, the fourth most of any Knight.

WHAT THIS MEANS


Connor Watson, Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga spent just 176 minutes on the field together last season.

As the key attacking cogs, it's imperative the trio are getting game time with each other.

If the strike weapons are on the field, the points should flow.

On the discipline and defensive front, the team needs some work.

That's the greatest area with room to improve.

With Tim Glasby coming to tighten up the middle and the young Knights a season older, the only way is up for the red and blue.