Newcastle Knights
Knights 2007 squad
Milton Thaiday,  Adam MacDougall, Brad Tighe, George Carmont,  Paul Franze,  Jarrod Mullen,  Andrew Johns, Josh Perry,  Danny Buderus,  Kirk Reynoldson
Steve Simpson,  Clint Newton,  Daniel Abraham,  Mitchell Sargent, Reegan Tanner, Adam Woolnough, Luke Davico, Regan Tanner, Todd Polglase,  Kade Snowden.

Coach: Brian Smith

GUIDE TO THE KNIGHTS 2007
Gains Mitchell Sargent (Cowboys), Kade Snowden, Paul Franze (Castleford), Chris Bailey (1 year): Adam MacDougall, Todd Polglase (Rabbitohs)

Losses: Anthony Quinn (Storm), Brian Carney (Titans), Matt Gidley (St Helens), Todd Lowrie (Eels), Craig Smith (retiring), Brendan Worth (Penrith).

KNIGHTS - NRL 2007 - ULTIMATE PRE-SEASON GUIDE;  The Daily Telegraph. Dec 12, 2006. 
A NEW coach with new ideas and philosophies and not an off- season sand hill in sight. Knights players have been thinking all their Christmases have come at once over the past three weeks under former Eels coach Brian Smith.  Adam MacDougall, Todd Polglase (Souths), Mitchell Sargent (Cowboys), Paul Franze (Castleford)OUTS  Matt Gidley (St Helens), Todd Lowrie (Eels), Craig Smith (retired), Brian Carney (Titans), Anthony Quinn (Storm), Dustin Cooper (Sharks)
A NEW coach with new ideas and philosophies and not an off- season sand hill in sight. Knights players have been thinking all their Christmases have come at once over the past three weeks under former Eels coach Brian Smith.  "We've been training with the footy virtually since day one," prop Josh Perry enthused. "Everyone has been switched on and Brian has changed a lot of calls and has new defensive patterns so everyone has been learning heaps. It's been great and the whisper around is we won't be running the sand hills at all."
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news Josh but get set for a nasty little surprise in the New Year. Asked about the absence of the dreaded sand hills in his training schedule, Smith said: "There might be a little surprise waiting for them after Christmas just to test them out mentally".  Sand hills aside and without putting down former coach Michael Hagan at all, Knights players have described Smith's methods as refreshingly new.  "It is different from what I'm used to so that makes everything fresh," Perry said. Danny Buderus was just as enthusiastic. "I'm loving it. It's been very tough but Brian has put the cleaners through everything," he said.
"We're all learning new calls and he is a lot different defensively so there has been a big change there, which is probably why we've been working with the football so much, to get familiar with everything."  A big part of Smith's training has been an emphasis on wrestling as a tackling technique.

DARRYL BROHMAN - The Knights are always going to be competitive when Joey is fit. Everybody seems to have an opinion on whether he will get on with coach Smith. I think they will be fine. However they can't do it on their own. Need to unearth a superstar from somewhere otherwise I think they will struggle.

Smith chases breakthrough premiership; New Knights mentor believes players can teach him how to snare title - Herald. Oct 19, 2006. 
NEW Knights coach Brian Smith declared yesterday that Newcastle's stable of game-breakers could teach him the one thing missing from his vast pool of rugby league knowledge: how to win a premiership. The career coach has reached four first-grade grand finals and lost them all.  Looking healthy and refreshed after his first prolonged holiday in two decades of coaching, Smith spoke positively and confidently about the Knights and his vision for the future.
THE KNIGHTS -  Smith admitted that starting at a new club for the first time in 10 years was a daunting experience, but he had been reassured by everything he had seen and heard from players and administrators at the Knights. "The feel I've had since I've been here has been extremely welcoming from administration and all the people that work in the Knights office," he said. "But because I'm a footy coach and not an administrator, I was more excited about the meetings I've had with [Danny] Buderus and [Steve] Simpson a couple of weeks ago. On the afternoon of the presentation night I met with Danny and Simmo and spent a couple of hours with them, and I met with Andrew [Johns] last Thursday. Matty Gidley, who I'm really disappointed about not being able to coach, came in and had a great chat to me for a couple of hours. He told me everything about Newcastle and the footy club from his perspective, and their intensity and their obvious love for footy and the club is why I'm feeling so confident about fitting in."
THE TOWN -  Smith said his experience at Hull had prepared him for the intensity and scrutiny that comes from fanatical supporters in a one-team town.
And he is excited rather than daunted by the expectation that comes with the territory. "I like it when the expectations are high. I've tried it where the expectations are low and it's not nice."  Smith has already had a few encounters with fans and has been encouraged by their support and goodwill. "I stayed at the Executive Inn at Wests for a couple of nights and as I walked through the doors into the leagues club there were three ladies sitting at a table," he said. "All three of them wanted me to get over to the table and have a yak about footy straight off the bat."  Smith's first memory of Newcastle was playing for the NSW Schoolboys side as a 17-year-old from Casino.  "I've never actually been to Newcastle to experience what all you people that have been here for years talk about," Smith said. "Every time I came here as a coach was just to do a job. But over the last few months coming here with my wife to look at houses and doing organisational issues for next season I'm starting to get that feel about Newcastle."
THE HOLIDAY -  Smith was told by Parramatta officials before the start of the 2006 season that it would be his last and Knights coach Michael Hagan was named as his replacement. He parted company with the club after 10 rounds that yielded just two wins from nine games. He signed for the Knights after they had made several approaches to other coaches. The five-month holiday that ensued is the longest break he has had in a coaching career that began at Illawarra (1984-87) before stints at Hull (1988-90), St George (1990-95) and Bradford (1996) before a move that would eventually make him Parramatta's longest-serving coach (1997-2006). "I was that stereotypical bloke that was working crazy hours and doing too much without realising how deeply in he is," Smith said.
"It took rolling over the morning I finished at Parra about ten past four and thinking, 'I don't have to do this. I can just get back into bed, roll over and go to sleep.'
"I had a scary bit in the middle, I've got to say, where I enjoyed it so much that I started thinking, 'Maybe I don't need that other stuff', but in the last few weeks my juices are going again, especially after speaking to the players."
ANDREW JOHNS -  Much has been made of the supposed ill feeling between the new Knights coach and the halfback, but Smith yesterday said he was "challenged and excited" at the prospect of coaching the man regarded as the best player in the world. Smith rejected any suggestion of a rift and said that a one-on-one meeting with Johns recently had left him in no doubt about their ability to work together for the Knights cause. "I've never coached a player of that quality in any position, but I've never had an experienced, quality halfback like Andrew," he said. "We come from different places and we've got different interests and I'm 52 and he's nearly half my age and we are definitely different in lots of ways. But when it came to talking about football and that's the first time we've ever done that he talked and I listened and then he asked a lot of questions. He's obviously a footy head, which I'm accused of being as well. He thinks I can help him with some aspects and he wants me to help him with some aspects of his game, so I hope I can do that for him and obviously for the team."
THE FUTURE  - Smith does not see too much wrong at the Knights. Inevitably, there will be some changes, but he does not anticipate "shaking the cage" too much yet. A lot of the framework for the immediate future had been outlined in his recent meetings with Knights senior players. "I've got to say of all the interviews I've done over a 20-year career they were the most frank and knowledgeable interviews I can ever remember having," Smith said of the meetings with Buderus, Simpson and Johns. "They let me know in no uncertain terms what was expected of me and what they wanted me to put in place and they were all footy-related things." 

Axed Sargent signs for Newcastle
Mitchell Sargent, who was sacked by NRL side North Queensland Cowboys after failing a drugs test, has signed for Newcastle Knights. Sargent was axed by the Cowboys after testing positive for cocaine. The front-rower has signed a three-year deal with the Knights and will join them for the 2007 season.He has been re-registered by the NRL because of the stringent testing guidelines and counselling outlined in his contract. Sargent said he looked forward to repaying the Knights' faith. "To be playing with guys like Joey Johns, Danny Buderus and Steve Simpson . . . [it is] definitely going to be a great three years and I'm totally committed to the Newcastle Knights and giving them my best footy," he said.  "[After] making that huge mistake and getting a second chance . . . I definitely want to win back the support of my fans and of the broader community."

Knights go to work on their defence; Sunday Telegraph. Jan 7, 2007. 
THE Knights will overhaul their defensive structure as new coach Brian Smith lays the foundations for an assault on the premiership. Despite Newcastle clinching a top-four berth last year, only Canberra had a worse defensive record of the eight finalists. The Knights leaked 606 points at an average of 23 per game and have not forgotten the 50-6 finals drubbing against Brisbane which ended their season. Renowned for their attacking flair, the Knights, under Smith, have spent the summer fine-tuning their efforts without the ball. "We've worked hard on our defence," Knights halfback Andrew Johns said. "The way we will defend this season will change. "You don't have to be Einstein to know it was one area in which we lacked (last season). We can score points easily but our defence would sometimes leak 40. "Against Brisbane, we were without the best hooker in the world (Danny Buderus) and one of the best back-rowers in Steve Simpson but you shouldn't leak 40 points in a big game. "It's an area we have to improve on and Brian has changed things."
Johns has been blown away by his new mentor, who is known as one of the code's sharpest minds. "Brian is just such a great communicator and educator," the former Test halfback said. "He has explained things in a way that hasn't been heard. I don't want to sound like I'm putting anyone from the past down, but the way he gets his point across is incredible."
Johns, who is contracted until the end of 2008, says he is in better shape now than at the same stage last year. But he has yet to speak to Smith about possibly playing less minutes in 2007 to preserve his ageing frame. "Last year when we went to a big lead I'd come off, so it's up to Brian," Johns said. "If he rests me during the year or not, we haven't spoken about it, but we've got Jarrod Mullen, who is a great talent. We've also got a halfback called Luke Walsh."

Johns cleared of facial fractures - March 18, 2007 
NEWCASTLE captain Andrew Johns has been cleared of any facial fractures but is still likely to miss next Friday's NRL clash with St George-Illawarra after being knocked out in the Knights' amazing 25-24 win over the Bulldogs. Johns was unconscious for two minutes after being felled by a Sonny Bill Williams high shot in just the fourth minute of the round one clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium. Williams was sent off by referee Tony Archer after Johns laid motionless face down on the turf for more than five minutes before being taken off on a stretcher wearing a neck brace.

Joey gives the game away - April 10, 2007
Rugby league legend, Andrew "Joey" Johns, has announced he is walking away from the game that he has dominated for over a decade.  The former Newcastle, NSW and Australian captain said at a press conference at EnergyAustralia Stadium in Newcastle this afternoon that he has had to leave the game due to "a potentially catastrophic" neck injury. He has a bulging disk in his neck and has decided to retire immediately. The Newcastle team doctor Neil Halpin said that Johns had no choice but to leave the game. "It was obvious on Thursday night he had done some serious damage to his neck ... on scanning today it shows a disk injury that is potentially quite a serious disk injury ... He is at serious risk of a catastrophic spinal injury," Halpin said. Johns said he "was still in shock" but had told his family and his teammates and accepted that the writing was on the wall. "They were sort of relieved I think, after a couple of injuries this year," Johns told reporters.
"I'm still in shock. I was in shock when it happened," an emotionally sapped Johns told a press conference at this afternoon. "Just totally numb. It was really difficult to tell my family. I made an emotional call to my brother Matthew and it was even tougher talking to the players this afternoon. I think the time's right."
He said he left the game with great memories and great friendships. He said his teammates supported his decision when he announced it to them. "Each one came up and shock my hand."
Johns said he would have like to go out on a high with another premiership. "I knew that the end would be coming soon, I knew it my heart that this year would be my last year. I would have loved to finish with a premiership. This could've happened when I was 19. I've achieved so much in the game, I've had some great memories and the main thing some great friendships," Johns said. "I knew in my heart this year would be my last year but it's just unfortunate it's stopped five months before the end of the season. Two premierships definitely stand out. It was just so emotional winning both of those games. The biggest thing for me has been the friendships I've made which will last  a lifetime ... It's been like an absolute dream."
He said he realised how lucky he was not to be in a wheelchair. "I hate to think what a full-blown hit on the field could have done."
Glittering career -  Johns has been hailed by many as the greatest to play the game, and led Newcastle to premierships in a thrilling 1997 win over Manly and 2001 upset over Parramatta. Johns played 23 State of Origin games for NSW and represented Australia in 21 Test matches, including the 1995 World Cup and the  2001 Kangaroos tour. Johns ends his career as the greatest pointscorer in NRL history with 2176 points from 249 first grade games with the Knights. He also won the coveted Dally M award three times.
Thanks Joey!

Knights Club Career 
Newcastle Knights 1993-2007
He was appointed Knights captain in 2001.
Knights Premiership matches 249 Games, 80 tries, 917 goals, 22F/G, 2176 Pts.

Holds Newcastle records for most points in a match (34).
Most points in a season (279). 
Most first grade appearances (249).

MVP for the 1995 World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium.
Dally M winner in 1998, 1999 and 2002.
Winner of the Golden Boot award as the best player in the world in 1999 and 2001.

Played in premiership-winning Newcastle teams in 1997 and 2001 (captain).
Won the Clive Churchill Medal in 2001. 

"Looking back, I probably haven't treated it like a temple, but that's the way I am and I wouldn't want it any other way." -  Andrew Johns 2007

Knights draw up hit-list -  April 12, 2007 
NEWCASTLE has drawn up a hit-list of some of the NRL's elite players as it looks to fill the $500,000 void created by Andrew Johns' shock retirement.
The Australian understands the Knights have identified several players they want to sign including St George-Illawarra prop Jason Ryles and Brisbane centre Brent Tate. Others attracting interest are Luke O'Donnell, Joel Clinton, Brent Kite, Ben Roberts, Paul Whatuira, Bronson Harrison, Richie Williams, Brett Kimmorley and Ben Hornby. Knights coach Brian Smith and other officials are evaluating the club's roster as they have a host of first-grade players off contract.
"It's Brian's first year at the club and we're only four rounds in and he's still assessing the current players," Newcastle football manager Steve Crowe said yesterday.
"That's the priority. But we'll definitely recruit next year and the fact Joey's (Johns) not playing gives us a bit more ability to do that."
Johns was on a $500,000-a-year contract with the Knights and was expected to give officials an answer next month whether he intended to take up a one-year option for 2008 or finish his career with English club Warrington. It is understood a Knights official contacted several player managers last week to ask for a list of their off-contract players - not an unusual act but one that takes on more currency following the retirement of Johns. Most player managers were of the belief the Knights would be major players on the open market. "They'll be big movers and shakers in 2008," manager Steve Gillis said of the Knights yesterday.
Even though there are several halves options on the open market in Kimmorley, Hornby, Williams and Roberts, Newcastle is not expected to opt for a straight-out replacement for Johns. They have a ready-made substitute in 20-year-old Jarrod Mullen, who cemented his first-grade spot last year, while fullback Kurt Gidley and hooker Danny Buderus offer plenty of options in attack. That could leave the club looking to recruit a representative-class forward in Ryles or Kite to beef up their forward pack while Tate would add some spark out wide following the departure of Matt Gidley and Brian Carney to England and Anthony Quinn to Melbourne. Tate is expected to be squeezed out under the Broncos salary cap and is being courted by rugby union and other National Rugby League clubs.
Historically, Newcastle is not a major player on the NRL's open market, preferring to focus on retention. The Knights will certainly have their hands full if they intend to keep their 2007 roster intact with Daniel Abraham, Luke Davico, Clint Newton, Adam Woolnough, Josh Perry, Milton Thaiday and George Carmont off contract. 

Buderus to take Joey's mantle at Knights - April 13, 2007
Newcastle coach Brian Smith says hooker Danny Buderus is the man to take ownership of the Knights in the post Andrew Johns era. With the NRL retirement of Johns on Tuesday, pressure immediately landed on the shoulders of 20-year-old Jarrod Mullen as the champion halfback's heir apparent. But with the one-team-town of Newcastle desperate for a hero to lead the Knights into battle, Smith said NSW captain and hooker Buderus was the player to fill the Joey void, starting against South Sydney on Sunday in Gosford. "(Buderus) was always going to be a bit in Joey's shadow because Joey was one of the great captains but now Danny's in his own space and I think he's ready for it," said Smith. "I think Danny's come on in leaps and bounds. "Even within this pre-season just gone. I thought on (last) Saturday Danny's return to the team added some real steel. I think his leadership by example was tremendous."
Buderus, 29, is just seven games shy of his 200th NRL appearance but has already been a dominant force leading the Knights in the absence of Johns.

More Knights News

Season 2007
THE Knights will host grand finalists Brisbane and Melbourne at EnergyAustralia Stadium in the space of a fortnight in the early rounds of the 2007 NRL season.
Without suspended hooker and likely captain Danny Buderus for the first three games, Newcastle face a torrid start to their 20th season and first under the direction of new coach Brian Smith. Five of the first nine are at home, but their title credentials will be tested when they play the 2006 semi-finalists the Broncos, Storm, Dragons and Bulldogs (twice) in the opening stretch of games leading up to a round 10 bye. Buderus will miss the season-opener against the Bulldogs at EAS on Sunday, March 18, and away games against the Dragons and Raiders in rounds two and three, but will return for an Easter blockbuster against the Storm in round four. The reigning premiers come to town in round six then host the Knights in a Brisbane rematch five weeks later, only a few days after the first State of Origin game at Suncorp Stadium on May 23. Smith had not seen the draw as of late yesterday but said exactly when and where the Knights played the other 15 teams next year mattered little because of how even the premiership had become. "You can't really tell the difference between a good draw and a bad one these days. That's probably something you can only look back and determine at the end of the year," Smith said. "I'm sure the marketing and logistics people might look at it a bit differently, but from a coaching-staff point of view, it's not really a big issue at this stage."
Unlike Michael Hagan, the man with whom he effectively swapped jobs, Smith has not been spared a return to his one-time home base. Newcastle's only game against Hagan's Eels is at Parramatta Stadium in round 17 (July 6-9), so Knights fans will not get the chance to welcome their former coach back to EAS.
The way the new 16-team draw has been structured, according to two pools of eight determined by the finishing order from this season, each side will play nine teams twice each and the other six once each to make up 24 matches. From a crowd-pulling perspective, the Knights are disappointed they will not host traditional rivals Parramatta and Manly, or the new Gold Coast Titans. But they have been spared trips to Townsville, Penrith and Cronulla because games against the Cowboys, Panthers and Sharks are scheduled for EAS. The Knights face three interstate or international away games in a six-week stretch in June and July against the Titans (round 15), Storm (round 18) and Warriors (round 20). They wind up the regular season with back-to-back home matches against the Panthers and Cowboys and a last-round away game against Wests Tigers. Souths will switch two of their home games from Telstra Stadium to Central Coast Stadium, and it is understood the Knights will be one of those in round five.

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS' 2007 DRAW

Rd 1  Knights 25 beat Bulldogs 24  (Home)
Rd 2  Knights 16 beat Dragons 12  (Home)
Rd 3  Raiders 48 beat Knights 18  (Away) 
Rd 4  Storm 24 beat Knights 12April 6-9 (Home) 
Rd 5  Knights 25 beat Rabbitohs 24 (Away)
6 April 21-23 v Broncos EnergyAustralia Stadium
7 April 27-30 v Sharks EnergyAustralia Stadium
8 May 4-7 v Bulldogs Telstra Stadium
9 May 11-14 v Warriors EnergyAustralia Stadium
10 May 18-21 BYE
11 May 25-28 v Broncos Suncorp Stadium
12 June 1-4 v Roosters Aussie Stadium
13 June 8-11 v Tigers EnergyAustralia Stadium
14 June 15-18 v Raiders EnergyAustralia Stadium
15 June 22-25 v Titans Carrara Stadium
16 June 29-July 2 v Rabbitohs EnergyAustralia Stadium
17 July 6-9 v Eels Parramatta Stadium
18 July 13-16 v Storm Olympic Park
19 July 20-23 v Roosters EnergyAustralia Stadium
20 July 27-30 v Warriors Mt Smart Stadium
21 August 3-6 v Dragons EnergyAustralia Stadium
22 August 10-13 v Sea Eagles Brookvale Oval
23 August 17-20 v Panthers EnergyAustralia Stadium
24 August 24-27 v Cowboys EnergyAustralia Stadium
25 August 31-Sept 3 v Tigers Leichhardt, Campbelltown or Telstra Stadium

OUR TOWN,  OUR TEAM.. 

GO KNIGHTS!

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