What to expect:
After making the finals for the first time in seven years, Newcastle is looking to push deeper into the season in 2021.
Another pre-season under the watch of coach Adam O’Brien should have the Knights looking to achieve back-to-back top eight appearances for the first time since 2003.
However, a number of injuries may fill the start of the season with uncertainty, with Kalyn Ponga, Blake Green and Edrick Lee to miss the first round. However, Connor Watson should be back from an Achilles injury for the season opener.
With the retirements of Aidan Guerra and Tim Glasby, as well as Sione Mata’utia, Andrew McCullough, Tautau Moga and Herman Ese’ese moving elsewhere, Newcastle has lost a lot of experience in their side. To fill the void left by departing players, Newcastle has recruited Englishmen Dominic Young and Bailey Hodgson. The pair debuted in the Super League last season, but are still unproven in the NRL and will be hoping to make an instant impact for the Knights.
With a relatively soft start to the season, Newcastle will be hoping to start strongly despite a round one matchup against the resurgent Bulldogs, who have won eight of the last nine clashes, including the last six in Newcastle.
If the spine of the Knights can stay healthy, it could be a very successful season for the club. After an off-season filled with injuries, Newcastle will be hoping that the side can remain healthy throughout the season.
Key to the season:
The pressure is on Mitchell Pearce as the only genuine playmaker and decision-maker in the Newcastle line-up. Kurt Mann had a strong season last year, however, Blake Green’s presence made the Knights a more dangerous side when he was on the field. If Pearce is freed up to play his natural game a bit more, Newcastle will be a more dangerous line up.