AT last Knights coach Nathan Brown appears to have assembled the heavy artillery capable of giving his team a fighting chance.
In Brown’s three seasons at the helm, Newcastle’s results have gradually improved, winning one game in 2016, five games in 2017 and nine games last season.
But their record against teams with big, dominating forwards has been horrendous.
They have lost six consecutive games against both Melbourne and Cronulla, five straight against the Roosters, four against both South Sydney and Canterbury, and three against North Queensland.
Those five teams have collectively beaten the Knights 28 games to nil on Brown’s watch, primarily because Newcastle lacked the muscle and experience up front to counter them. That should change next year.
Brown had already secured Tim Glasby from Melbourne, a grand final winner in 2017 and three-game Queensland Origin representative.
On Friday the Knights added experienced James Gavet, who signed a two-year deal after the Warriors confirmed they had agreed to release the former Bulldogs, Wests Tigers and Broncos prop.
And one of the biggest recruitment coups in Newcastle’s history could be just around the corner, once Test and NSW Origin enforcer David Klemmer has secured his release from the Bulldogs.
Should Klemmer join Gavet and Glasby at the Knights, Brown’s front-row rotation will comprise eight candidates with NRL experience.
The Saifiti twins, Daniel and Jacob, have been mainstays for the past three years, and former Bronco Herman Ese’ese was outstanding last season, earning a debut Kiwi Test jersey for his efforts.
Josh King has been a quiet achiever during his 40 top-grade games, while towering 20-year-old Pasami Saulo – a former Australian Schoolboy – is regarded as one of the club’s brightest prospects.
Knights player-list manager Troy Pezet described Gavet as “a big body who plays with a lot of aggression and energy”.
“Last season was a breakout year for James,” Pezet said. “We feel we’re getting him at the right time. He’s starting to play some his best football and still has room for growth.”
Brown has made no secret of his desire to bolster his pack with some “power forwards” capable of laying a platform for playmakers Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga.
In the past few seasons, the Knights have signed the likes of veterans Mickey Paea, Josh Starling, Jacob Lillyman and Chris Heighington, who provided experience but were clearly in the twilight of their careers.
In contrast, Glasby will be their only front-rower next season over the age of 30, and Klemmer, Ese’ese, the Saifitis, King and Saulo will also be aged 25 or younger.
Gavet, Glasby and fellow new recruits Jesse Ramien and Edrick Lee will all attend the club’s goal-setting and bonding camp at Caves Beach this weekend.
“We’ll have a leadership consultant there and we’ll be talking about what we’re planning to do with our attack next season, defensive structures, all that type of stuff,” Brown said.
“We’ve got some new staff, and some new players, so we thought it was important that we get everyone in together and put a few plans in place.
“So it’s a bit about planning and preparation and hopefully a chance for the new guys to get to know everyone a bit better.”