IT'S been touted as the "softest" draw, if there is such a thing, of any of the 16 teams in the NRL.
Yes, some of the scheduling may leave a lot to be desired but the Newcastle Knights don't have a whole lot to complain about following the official release of the 2021 draw by the NRL on Thursday.
As we forecast in the Newcastle Herald, the Knights will play four of their opening six games at home with their first five games all against bottom eight sides from last season.
That gives them a great chance to get off to a flier, even without recovering stars Kalyn Ponga and Blake Green, who are both set to miss the early rounds.
Also as predicted and in arguably the biggest plus, Adam O'Brien's men only have to play three of last season's top four, premiers Melbourne, minor premiers Penrith, and Parramatta, once and not twice.
In fact, they will only play three of last season's top eight twice [Sydney Roosters, Canberra and the Sharks] with Wayne Bennett's South Sydney also a once-only proposition.
All up, 14 of their 24 games will be against teams who finished in the bottom of the eight this year, a higher ratio than any other club.
That all sounds good in theory. Problem is the Knights have shown plenty of times in their recent past just how poor they are at consistently getting themselves up mentally for games against perceived inferior opposition. That will need to change next season.
It isn't all plain sailing.
There will be plenty of travel with trips to Auckland, Gold Coast, Wagga [for an away game against the Raiders], Townsville, Melbourne and two trips to Brisbane to face the Broncos and for a Magic Round clash against West Tigers.
They will also have to contend with a two week horror stretch of away games from round 9 to 11 that feature consecutive matches in Wagga, Brisbane and Townsville while three of their final four games will be on the road.
As for the scheduling, allocating the Knights a Thursday night graveyard clash against the Titans for their final home game, Old Boys Day, shows a complete lack of respect from the NRL for the club's traditions.
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