SuperCoach NRL study guide: Knights
After 3 wooden spoons in a row, Newcastle fans were desperate for some better results in 2018, and the arrival of Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson completely transformed the Knights' attack.
Although only winning 9 games, the Knights looked like a completely different side, and with the arrival of several other stars in 2019, now look ready for finals football. In fact, their side is looking so good, that anything other than a top 8 finish could be seen as a disaster. Coach Nathan Brown has done an amazing job to reverse the club's fortunes over his tenure, but now he will be under more pressure than ever before.
David Klemmer will really help the forward pack and the club's depth, particularly in the outside backs, has arguably never been better. The biggest change will be the reported move of Kalyn Ponga to the halves, with Connor Watson set to play fullback. Kalyn Ponga was on fire in 2018, nearly taking out the Dally M Player of the Year award in his first full season in the NRL, so the move does seem a bit odd. But he will see the ball quicker and more often, so it could prove to be a masterstroke. Time will tell.
Another big question mark is over the hooking situation, with Kurt Mann currently in line to be transformed into a number 9. Will he start straight away, or will he be eased into the role with Jamie Buhrer/Danny Levi filling the hole in the meantime?
Newcastle will likely be one of the biggest improvers this season and will be under big pressure to get back into finals for the first time since 2013.
1. Connor Watson, 2. Edrick Lee, 3. Hymel Hunt, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Kalyn Ponga, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 8. Tim Glasby, 9. Kurt Mann, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Sione Mata'utia, 12. Lachlan Fitzgibbon, 13. Aidan Guerra. Interchange: 14. Jamie Buhrer, 15. Daniel Saifiti, 16. Herman Ese'ese, 17. James Gavet
Brodie Jones, Joshua King, Mason Lino, Mitch Barnett, Nathan Ross, Pasami Saulo, Sam Stone, Slade Griffin, Danny Levi, Tauatu Moga, Jacob Saifiti, Zac Woolford, Brayden Musgrove, Phoenix Crossland, Beau Fermor
Gains: Tim Glasby (2021), Jesse Ramien (2020), Edrick Lee (2021), Mason Lino (2020), Zac Woolford (2019), David Klemmer (2023)
Loses: Brock Lamb (Roosters), Jacob Lillyman (retired), Jack Cogger (Bulldogs), Nick Meaney (Bulldogs), Chris Heighington (retired), Corey Denniss (Rabbitohs), Ken Sio (Super League), JJ Felise (Raiders), Luke Yates (Super League), Pat Mata'utia (released)
Bye: Round 12. No Newcastle player will be able to cover the first bye round for SuperCoach, so plan ahead.
Kalyn Ponga (FLB, 5/8 $614,300)
Kalyn Ponga was amazing in his first real season as a starter in the NRL, coming up just short of winning the Dally M medal. While he was pretty affordable in 2018, he's starting off this year as one of the more expensive options. In a huge change, Ponga looks set to swap the No.1 jersey to start at 5/8 for the Knights, which could radically change his SuperCoach output.
He will see the ball more often in attack, which means he will have more opportunity to make some magic happen, but he'll also be under more pressure from defending teams. Ponga will have to make more tackles, which will really increase his base, so if he can produce similar attacking output in 2019 he will be a must own. Otherwise SuperCoaches can play the waiting game to see if he drops in price while adjusting to his new role.
Connor Watson (5/8, FLB $537,100)
Like Ponga, 2018 was a breakout year for Connor Watson (setting aside his long injury lay off) averaging 57.4 and making SuperCoaches who stuck with him up to $250k. Watson should keep his great form going in 2019, with his move to fullback set to free him up and get him more involved in the Knights attack. If he can produce similar scores to last year then he could shape as a keeper, but unfortunately there are just better options at both his positions, SuperCoaches may want to wait.
Jesse Ramien (CTW $492,800)
Another rookie that had a breakout 2018 season, Ramien looks to keep it going this season, with his job security looking a lot better than it was at the Sharks. Ramien averaged just under 53 in 2018, and 29 points in base stats, which is really good for a CTW. He only had 3.6 per cent ownership last year, and at his price, could be a decent POD again in 2019.
Lachlan Fitzgibbon (2RF, $576,100)
Lachlan Fitzgibbon ended up as one of the PODs of the year in 2018, with his combination with Kalyn Ponga really helping. While he does come with a hefty price tag this year, if he finds himself on the same edge as Ponga once again, he may be worth another look.
Aidan Guerra (2RF $544,300)
Guerra was another great POD in 2018, finding himself playing big minutes at lock and averaging an impressive 51 points per game in tackles and runs. He ended up scoring more than Fitzgibbon in 2018 (because of injury) and had even less ownership.
Kurt Mann (5/8, CTW $258,900)
This pick really depends on where Mann is named in round 1. If he does get the nod to start at hooker, then he could be a must own for all SuperCoaches. But if he starts the 2019 season coming off the bench, he could remain a wait and see until he locks down a more solid role. If he can maintain a starting role, Mann could be one of the cheapies of the year, given you'll be able to slot a hooker in your CTW or 5/8 slot.
Brodie Jones (2RF, $168,100)
The talented youngster got close to an NRL call up in 2018, but missed out despite some impressive form in the NSW cup. While the impressive depth at Newcastle pushes Jones further back in the pecking order, he could still earn a call up if injury strikes. Jones consistently played 80m on an edge in NSW cup and had impressive base stats as well, so keep your eye on him.
Pasami Saulo (FRF/2RF, $196,900)
Like Jones, Saulo would probably only see game time if injuries hit the club, but unlike Jones, did make his NRL debut at the backend of the 2018 season, playing 3 games. While this does make him a bit more expensive, it also means he could be above Brodie Jones on the forwards depth chart. He does also have the dual eligibility which gives him extra flexibility if he makes the team. In the meantime, Pasami Saulo is another wait and see.
NO GO ZONE
Jamie Buhrer (2RF, HOK $226,400)
With the hooking situation under a bit of a cloud, you may think Buhrer could see increased minutes, but don't be fooled. Jamie Buhrer spent most of last season in a bench utility role and only averaged 24.2 points per game. Even if he gets slightly more minutes, his involvement is going to be too unreliable, so even at his cheap price he's not worth it. Some may even say Buhrer is the new Lewis Brown of SuperCoach.
Mason Lino (HFB, 5/8 $488.900)
Lino showed SuperCoaches that he is a first grade quality half and is SuperCoach relevant, averaging 52.3 over his 8 games while filling in for Shaun Johnson. However, he won't start for the Knights, unless Kalyn Ponga, Mitch Pearce or Connor Watson goes down. For Round 1, his best chance to play is as a bench utility, and at his price he should be avoided.