Knights News - 2007
||Knights News - 2006
News from the following sources;
Sydney Morning Herald,
How to rebuild a football club; From disgraceful off the
park and woeful on it, Knights bounce back - Herald. Newcastle,
Feb 18, 2006.
ONE year on and Bathurst is still a dirty word to the Newcastle Knights.
This weekend marks the first anniversary of the team's ill-fated pre-season
trip to the city better known as the revhead capital of Australia, when
12 players were disciplined for breaking a 3am curfew and the club's code
of conduct after a trial game against Penrith at Carrington Park. Promising
prop Dane Tilse paid the ultimate penalty, having his contract torn up,
and he and 11 others were fined a total of $50,000 for sneaking back out
of the team's hotel to an adjacent dormitory at Charles Sturt University.
Tilse has since joined the Canberra Raiders but is waiting for a rib injury
to heal before making his debut for the Green Machine, and Mark Hughes
and Blake Mueller have left Newcastle and are playing in France. The other
nine members of the so-called "dirty dozen" Dustin Cooper, Kurt Gidley,
Matt Kennedy, Todd Lowrie, Luke Quigley, Reegan Tanner, Kirk Reynoldson,
Daniel Tolar and Adam Woolnough are still with the Knights. Of those, all
bar Kennedy are with a 22-man squad in Alice Springs this weekend spreading
the league gospel among Aboriginal children in remote communities. Having
dragged their name and the game through the mud 12 months ago, the Knights
are covered in red dirt and dust this weekend for all the right reasons.
Geographically, culturally and from a public relations perspective, they
could not be further away from where they were. Instead of being the poster-boys
for footballers behaving badly, the Knights are flying the NRL's goodwill
flag. Knights chairman Mike Tyler believed vigilance and education were
the keys to ensuring players represented themselves, the club and community
with dignity. Acting on their best behaviour was the norm, Tyler said,
but players did not receive enough recognition or credit for doing so.
"We have to remain vigilant and we have done everything we possibly can
to make the players aware of their responsibilities," Tyler said. "We've
got a great mob of young men playing for us. I believe they are responsible,
and they are going to continue to be. They're young and fit and healthy,
and they like to go out and socialise, particularly after a game, and I've
got no problem with that. It's just knowing where to draw the line. But
I'm very confident that we will be extremely proud of our players on and
off the field. "I received a letter only last week from people in Inverell,
where five of our players [Reynoldson, Kurt and Matt Gidley, Clint Newton
and Chris Bailey] were recently for the NRL Community Camps.
"The letter was absolutely glowing in its praise of our players who
represented the club so well up there, and that's what I believe our players
are all about. But we don't hear enough about that."
Bad luck and bad news badgered the Knights for months after Bathurst.
Sponsorship negotiations broke down, Andrew Johns broke his jaw, and football
manager Mark Sargent resigned after a breakdown in his relationship with
chief executive Ken Conway. The injury-plagued team lost a record 13 games
in a row and Tyler, who had replaced long-serving chairman Michael Hill
only one month after Bathurst, was on the verge of calling in the receivers
because of the club's financial plight.
But if the darkest hour heralds the dawn, it must have been pitch black
before Tyler took a call from club patron Michael Costa early one morning
Tyler said that was the day the Knights' fortunes changed. "It was
7.15, I was still in my PJs eating Vegemite and toast, and I got a phone
call from our patron's office telling me to ring a phone number," he reflected.
"I rang that number and it was the private line of Grant Thorn, the managing
director of Coal and Allied, and he indicated their interest in coming
on board. We all know what's happened since then. Coal and Allied have
become our naming-rights sponsor . . . and as a result other companies
were extremely positive about getting involved with us."
The Knights welcomed development and construction company Glen Alpine,
United Goninan increased and extended its association to sponsor the team's
new high-performance unit, and Tyler said "backbone" sponsors including
NIB, NBN and The Herald "stayed rock solid".
In early December, after almost 20 years of false starts, the Knights
and Western Suburbs Leagues Club announced a 12-year commercial partnership
worth $1 million a season to ensure the football club's future. If the
Knights needed a cool drink to toast the deal with Wests, it materialised
one month later when boutique Hunter brewery Bluetongue poured in $4 million
for the next five years to be the club's beer sponsor. This relationship
with Wests should have happened many, many years ago. I believe it's the
most natural synergy you could ever have," Tyler said. "They are an icon
organisation in our region, as I believe we are, and geographically they're
across the park from us, so it's just been a perfect fit. They have been
extremely professional and, I have to say, generous in their negotiations
and ultimate agreement with us. I believe the relationship with Wests has
really given us a stability and an economic security that we have never
had before. Given that situation, we were feeling reasonably comfortable
about where we were going. Since then we did the deal with Bluetongue,
which has been a fantastic boon."
Tyler praised the club's administrative staff, particularly Conway,
marketing manager Vanessa Campbell and operations manager Stephen Crowe,
for working "above and beyond the call of duty" to help drag the Knights
out of the mire. These things didn't just happen. There's been some work
done behind the scenes that most people just are not aware of," he said.
"The turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable, and that's come about
because of an enormous amount of hard work across the board. They are unheralded,
but they deserve a huge rap for the unstinting effort they have put in."
Tyler said the one constant during the fall and rise of the Knights
in the past 12 months had been the unflinching faith of their fans. He
recalled being especially emotional, and particularly proud to be chairman,
when 22,000 fans stood and cheered the team from the field towards the
end of their record losing streak last year. "I think we're unique. The
support of the Newcastle faithful is unlike any other in the comp because
we have the greatest and most loyal fans of any club," he said. Tyler believed
the supporters who endured the lean times of last season, when the Knights
ran last, were entitled to bristle with confidence about this year.
"I think we're in the best position we've been in, both on and off
the paddock," he said. "We've resourced our club to the extent where the
players have now got the support they need and deserve. The deal with Wests
is going to assist us in relation to training facilities, and we've employed
expert personnel to assist the team so they're going to be looked after
properly. I'm very confident that we're going to have a great season, and
the expression 'last to first' is certainly not out of the realms of possibility.
I don't want to jonah us, or set expectations too high, but I believe we've
got a football team capable of beating any in the comp.
"We've got the world's best footballers playing with us, and we've
got depth like we've never had before because these young players who stood
up last year are going to be better players for that this year. "As long
as we're not decimated by injury like we have been for the last couple
of years, I'm very confident about our prospects this season. The turnaround
has been nothing short of remarkable, and that's come about because of
an enormous amount of hard work across the board."
From Bathurst to Bluetongue: THE FALL AND RISE OF THE
FEBRUARY 20, 2005 Players involved in alcohol-related incident at Charles
Sturt University at Bathurst after trial game against Penrith.
FEBRUARY 21, 2005 Club sacks Dane Tilse and fines 12 players over Bathurst
scandal. NRL fines club $200,000, half of which is suspended.
MARCH 10, 2005 Electronics maker Gizmondo pulls out of potential sponsorship
deal worth $2million.
MARCH 13, 2005 RD 1: STORM 48 - KNIGHTS 10
MARCH 19, 2005 RD 2: RAIDERS 39 - KNIGHTS 14
MARCH 30, 2005 Longstanding chairman Michael Hill stands down and is
replaced by Mike Tyler.
APRIL 2, 2005 RD 4: COWBOYS 52 - KNIGHTS 18
APRIL 10, 2005 RD 5: RABBITOHS 37 - KNIGHTS 12
APRIL 17, 2005 RD 6: WARRIORS 30 - KNIGHTS 26
APRIL 17, 2005 Andrew Johns breaks jaw against the Warriors and Lock
Daniel Abraham suffers season-ending fractured leg in the Knights 30-26
APRIL 24, 2005 RD 7: BULLDOGS 24 - KNIGHTS 20
MAY 1, 2005 RD 8: RAIDERS 14 - KNIGHTS 10
MAY 8. 2005 RD 9: ROOSTERS 32 - KNIGHTS 2
MAY 15, 2005 RD 10: TIGERS 32 - KNIGHTS 16
MAY 21, 2005 RD 11: DRAGONS 18 - KNIGHTS 16
JUNE 4, 2005 Coach Michael Hagan and football manager Mark Sargent
go public with fears over support staff levels and player facilities.
JUNE 5, 2005 RD 13: BRONCOS 34 - KNIGHTS 16
JUNE 7, 2005 Sargent quits, citing an untenable relationship with club
JUNE 11, 2005 RD 14: EELS 50 - KNIGHTS 0
JUNE 19, 2005 Knights move to within one loss of the NRL record when
they suffer their 13th
The losing streak ends here, but the club never recovers from the disastrous
start to straight loss, 48-26 to Manly.
season and goes on to claim its first wooden spoon since its inception
JUNE 17, 2005 Knights announce $1.35million naming-rights sponsorship
with Hunter Valley mining giant Coal and
Allied until end of 2006 with option for 2007.
JUNE 25, 2005 Knights win first game in 294 days by beating Panthers
28-24 at Penrith, ending a 13-game losing streak.
JULY 1, 2005 Knights re-sign Milton Thaiday (two years) and sign former
Canberra prop Luke Davico (two years).
JULY 10, 2005 Knights win first home game in 309 days by beating Cowboys
22-18 at EnergyAustralia Stadium.
JULY 12, 2005 Knights re-sign Josh Perry (two years) and sign Great
Britain winger Brian Carney (one year).
JULY 12, 2005 Knights announce six-figure sponsorship with international
trade exchange E-Banc Trade for club's game-day entertainment.
JULY 21, 2005 Knights re-sign Daniel Abraham (two years).
JULY 29, 2005 Knights announce $500,000 deal over two years with United
Group (United Goninan) to provide full-time support staff and sponsor the
JULY 30, 2005 Knights extend Andrew Johns's contract until end of 2008
and beat Melbourne 37-18.
DECEMBER 6, 2005 The powerful Western Suburbs Leagues Club and the
Knights agree to forge an alliance, with Wests
committing to $1million annually for the next 12 years.
JANUARY 4, 2006 Millionaire John Singleton's brewery, Bluetongue, signs
on as the Knights' largest sponsor in a $4million landmark deal.
Johns, Smith a lethal combination; The Australian.
Mar 6, 2006.
WHEN Eels five-eighth John Morris threw an engagement bash at his Parramatta
home on Saturday night, a few of his former Newcastle team-mates made the
trek down the F3 to join in the celebrations. It was only a matter of time
before the conversation turned to Brian Smith. After all, the Parramatta
coach's name had been splashed over the morning newspapers as the latest
candidate to replace Michael Hagan at the Knights. Forget Hull and Canberra,
who were also believed to be in the hunt. Smith was now heading north to
replace the man who took his job at the Eels from 2007. "Johnny said he's
got a lot of respect for him and he's done a lot for Johnny so he had a
pretty good rap on him," Newcastle prop Josh Perry said yesterday. Perry
has had his own experiences with Smith, and so too have a couple of other
Newcastle players and officials who will play a crucial role in determining
if he gets a start at the club. In 2003 Smith was in his third and final
year as coach of the NSW Country team. As far as country representative
teams go, it wasn't that bad a line-up. St George Illawarra's Trent Barrett
at five-eighth. Cronulla's David Peachey at fullback. But it gets better.
Newcastle captain Andrew Johns at halfback. Danny Buderus hooker. Perry
and Daniel Abraham on the bench. Lock Ben Kennedy, now at Manly, and winger
Timana Tahu, now with Smith at the Eels, were also there, along with Perry.
While Perry's opinion doesn't hurt, those of Harragon, Johns and Buderus
will hold sway around the boardroom table at Newcastle. Harragon, a former
prop at the club, has been sounding out coaches since the club began its
search for someone to replace Hagan. It has not been going well, given
they have already missed out on Tim Sheens and Matt Elliott. Johns, Buderus,
and Steve Simpson and Matthew Gidley -- who also both played under Smith
in the Country teams over 2001-02 -- form part of a players committee the
board will consult before making a final decision on a coach. It is a process
Johns, who is believed to be meeting Smith some time this week, has already
been through once before, after he was sounded out prior to Hagan's appointment
in 2001. He represented a key figure in those negotiations after his older
brother Matthew Johns had fallen out with Hagan's predecessor Warren Ryan,
a man considered an old-style coach like Smith.
Johns' influence has grown tenfold since then. Even more important
is that Johns and Smith were allegedly feuding in 2001, a subject the Eels
coach tried to debunk during his stint as a columnist for The Australian.
"It probably came about after someone got the wrong idea from an interview
I gave following our pre-season game against the Knights, in which Johns
celebrated big time after his team-mate Timana Tahu scored a fantastic
try for them," Smith wrote. "I made a point of saying afterwards that you
could tell the game was fair dinkum, and we could take a bit of confidence
out of it, because when Johns is yipping and yahooing you know they are
serious about what they are doing. "But somehow or other that got twisted
around so they made it sound like I was having a shot at him."
The Knights are about to enter a crucial phase in their relatively
short history. The retirement of Johns, 31, could be a couple of seasons,
or a serious injury, away. The halfback is contracted until the end of
the 2008 season but realistically is a weekly proposition given his unfortunate
run with injuries. The Knights have shown all too often in the past how
much they struggle without Johns and to try to survive without him when
he eventually walks away is mission impossible for any coach.
Enter Smith. While he may not have a premiership to his name after
448 games and a reputation for being too intense, he is also regarded as
a workaholic and meticulous planner who leaves absolutely nothing to chance.
His stint at Parramatta has seen the Eels secure the club championship
(judged over all grades) for eight of the past nine years and insiders
say there is not a player from premier league all the way down to the under-16s
Harold Matthews competition unknown to Smith.
"I've learned a great deal and I've been under him now for four years,"
Morris said, adding that playing under Smith was a factor in his leaving
Newcastle. He's developed me really well and I'm always learning. He's
been great. I think that's the coach's number one priority is to keep improving
players and I feel like I'm doing that." Smith is regarded as having
one of the best football brains in the game; Johns is regarded as the best
footballer on the planet. If the pair could work together it's fair to
say that would be a lethal combination.
Sargent's new mission; RUGBY LEAGUE Sep 10, 2006.
SACKED North Queensland prop Mitchell Sargent was "over the moon"
to be given a second chance after signing a three-year deal with Newcastle
Banished for testing positive to cocaine at an in-house drug
test two weeks ago, Sargent was re-registered by the NRL because of the
stringent testing guidelines
and counselling outlined in his new contract. A relieved
and emotional 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 chief executive Ken Conway said the club believed Sargent deserved
another chance. "We can test him any time, anywhere and he's happy with
that," he said.
Knight fall makes way for new day; NRL -
Herald. Sep 18, 2006.
THERE was no worst to first. But, as shattered as they were about their
humiliating end to the NRL season at Aussie Stadium on Saturday night,
Newcastle's senior players said the Knights took a quantum leap this year
and will improve even further in 2007. A record 50-6 loss to Brisbane was
not the way the Knights had hoped to farewell Parramatta-bound coach Michael
Hagan and departing players Matt Gidley (St Helens), Anthony Quinn (Melbourne),
Brian Carney (Gold Coast), Craig Smith (retiring) and Todd Lowrie (Parramatta).
The Knights were no match for the Broncos without internationals Danny
Buderus and Steve Simpson, but captain Andrew Johns said they could be
proud of their overall improvement this year. "I don't think Hages deserves
to go out on that note or Matthew Gidley, and what he's done for the club,
and everyone else, so it's sad in that way," Johns said. "We came last
last year and we've made the top four this year, so it has been a big year.
But we're losing a lot of players, and we're losing our coach, so we're
rebuilding again next year, and that's another challenge."
Hagan is moving on after six years in charge to make way for former
Eels coach Brian Smith, who officially takes over on November 1 but could
start his duties before then depending when Hagan decides to clock off.
"The boys didn't deserve to finish the year that way," Hagan said. "The
effort, given where we've come from last year, the work that's been done
pre-season and the work that's been done to get ourselves into a good position
at the end of the year and give ourselves what we thought was a genuine
opportunity, it is a sad way to go out. "It's sad for the players that
are leaving the club too, that they finished on such a disappointing note."
Smith will welcome ex-Knights Adam MacDougall and Todd Polglase from
Souths and Paul Franze (formerly Cronulla and Penrith), and former Cowboy
Mitchell Sargent to the existing squad. Back-rower Clint Newton said the
Knights should feel confident about their prospects under Smith. "You can
always look at the negatives. No one wants to finish like that and, if
anything, that's probably the worst possible way to finish," Newton said.
"But in saying that, considering where we came from last year, I think
it's been an outstanding effort from a lot of the players and coaching
staff. We proved a lot of people wrong, in my opinion, who didn't give
us much of a chance this year, and I think we've shown we've got plenty
to build on. Now we go into a new era, with a new coach, and we've got
no reason not to feel confident going into next season."
He said the embarrassing loss to the Broncos would stick in their craw
but would provide extra motivation next year. "Our critics can say what
they like, but nothing they say will hurt us more than our own personal
pride," he said. "I'm really disappointed we couldn't send Hages, and our
blokes who are leaving, out on the right note but, in football, not everyone
gets a fairytale ending. But there's a lot for us to work on. We've still
got a great squad that will hopefully go in full of confidence next season.
I'm looking forward to a break, but I'm very excited about going into next
season with a great squad and a new outlook on the side."
Craig Smith, who hopes to stay involved with the Knights in a coaching
role, could see even better days ahead. "Our team has evolved this season.
They have developed as a side, and if the nucleus sticks together, I think
they will do some good things in the years to come, so it's great to have
been a part of that," Smith said. "Rugby league is about hard work, and
I think a lot of guys have realised that."
Knights cheergirls; UP FRONT, WHO YOU KNOW - The
people you meet; Herald. Sep 30, 2006.
"What's the worst thing?"
Not blizzardly winds, driving rain or the prospect of the Knights copping
a flogging all of those discomforts go with the territory. No, Rachel Toussaint,
21, is clear and certain about a cheergirl's greatest occupational hazard:
"Falling on your butt in front of 25,000 people. And it usually happens
just when the television camera is on you," adds Elise Walker, 21, who
laughingly recounts how she once snagged a boot in a stocking and fell
flat on her face. A fortnight after the Newcastle Knights bowed out of
the premiership race, the club's cheer squad the NEG IgKnighters remained
alive and kicking to shake the red and blue pom-poms in this week's Footy
Show grand final. If you think the Knights' first grade side is a tough
nut to crack, try winning one of the coveted places among the 30 on offer
in this elite troupe. In the countdown to Thursday night's TV appearance,
Rachel, Elise and Michelle Cooper, 23, took a breather from training to
wise us up on the life and times of the girls who dance, chant and shiver
through a long winter of supporting their team. It starts in December when
100 aspirants audition for the squad. Being an existing member is no insurance
policy. A contract is only good for one season which means that everybody
is back in the mix at audition time, trying to impress the judges. "The
main thing is to project," says Michelle, "display all you talents and
show you're having fun."
Like the football team, places are won on merit with the best 20 getting
to perform on match days. The benchmark is high, just ask Michelle who
was a squad member with Jennifer Hawkins, the Holmesville girl who kicked
on to be crowned Miss Universe. Typically, Michelle of New Lambton Heights,
had a strong background in classical ballet and dance before she auditioned
six years ago. Rachel, of Wallsend, has just completed her third
season with the IgKnighters having swapped the Hunter Pirates colours for
the red and blue. She soon noticed the difference between performing indoors
at the basketball as opposed to the great outdoors of EnergyAustralia Stadium.
"Indoors, the ground is always level," she says. "By half-time in a football
game, there are all sorts of holes out there, so you have to watch where
you put your feet, otherwise . . ." Yep, we know, you could fall on your
Besides divots, the most deadly trap is the dreaded TV camera cable,
a hazard capable of upending the most highly polished routine. Like most
members of the squad, Elise of Whitebridge was already a mad Knights supporter
before her successful audition. "I used to sit up there on the hill with
my family for every home game. They were so proud when I made the cheer
If young footballers are prone to first-night nerves, then spare a
thought for cheer squad debutants. "I was only 17 at the time," recalls
Elise. "I remember coming out and seeing this enormous crowd, I was shaking
and forgetting my dance. I just followed the girls in front. I was terrified."
Now she thrives on the match-day atmosphere and the camaradarie within
the squad. Television appearances, promotional engagements and the match-day
atmosphere are the glamorous parts of the project. But if you don't come
with a terrific work ethic, don't bother applying. You must be fit and
remain in great condition. The deal includes a gym membership, but the
responsibility of staying in trim falls on the individual. The squad trains
every Tuesday night and each match day starting at a chilly 6am. In the
build-up to this week's Footy Show clash, the girls were training every
day, working up a new routine under the tuition of choreographer Megan
Sutton, herself a former squad member. The girls receive a modest payment
but it's hardly a full-time career. Most fit the commitment around work
or study. And that certainly blows the old cliche about pom-pom girls being
a bunch of air-heads out to catch a footballer. Tertiary qualifications
abound with both Elise and Michelle heading for teaching careers and Rachel
holding down a livelihood as a personal trainer. And here's another cliche
popper: you don't have to be blonde. This year's squad was almost evenly
divided between blondes and brunettes. The biggest shock for a new IgKnighter
comes with the first blast of winter. While supporters are wrapped against
the elements, the most scantily clad fans are the girls down there on the
sideline. So, the best thing the players can do for their most ardent supporters
is score plenty of points. Tries and goals galore mean the girls with the
pom-poms and the goose bumps get to dance. And that makes everybody happy.
Knights dump guards - Security firm under fire over serial
pest; The Daily Telegraph. Nov 2, 2006.
THE security company that came under fire after two highly publicised
and controversial pitch invasions at EnergyAustralia Stadium last season
has been dumped by the Newcastle Knights. Gosford-based TCB Elite Security
has been told by the Knights their services are no longer required.
National Entertainment Services, the company who had the Knights security
contract for the previous 13 years before being passed over for TCB at
the start of last season, are now back in charge. "Yes, we signed a new
deal with the Knights yesterday," NES general manager Glen Jennings said
yesterday. "We have five other NRL stadiums but it is great to be back
It is understood NES will take over immediately, with their new deal
covering all Newcastle Jets A-League games at EnergyAustralia Stadium for
the rest of the soccer season. A one-year sponsorship arrangement between
TCB and the Knights worth around $350,000, which saw the security company's
name and logo featured on the back of the club's jumpers, has also ended.
"That arrangement was always only for the one season," Knights and Wests
Group sponsorship manager James Black said. "We are now in the market for
a new sponsor."
The club believes a new deal could be worth as much as $400,000. Given
the controversy surrounding TCB during the league season, it is hardly
surprising the Knights and the company have gone their separate ways. The
firm first came under fire during the Knights opening premiership game
of the season against Parramatta when serial pest Peter Hoare rode a tricycle
on to the playing surface, disrupting the start of the match. In another
highly embarrassing security breach for the Knights, Hoare, who is banned
from all NRL games, again managed to invade EnergyAustralia Stadium, this
time disrupting the club's televised clash against Manly in August. He
was able to shake hands with Knights star Andrew Johns after a Josh Perry
try in the dying minutes and ran more than 50m down the field before he
was apprehended. Hoare was fined $350 for the March incident. Last month
he was fined $500 in Newcastle Local Court for the August trespassing offence,
far short of the maximum penalty of $5500 that was introduced in April.
A spokesman for TCB said yesterday he did not know if the company was still
in charge of security arrangements at EnergyAustralia Stadium. "I'm not
the right bloke to be talking to," he said.
New recruits get first taste of Knight's life under Brian;
Herald. Nov 7, 2006.
THE new boys met the new boss yesterday. And for former Knights players
Adam MacDougall, Paul Franze and Todd Polglase induction day took longer
than anticipated. MacDougall, Franze and Polglase joined fellow recruits
Mitchell Sargent (North Queensland) and Kurt Sorensen (Parramatta) at a
meet-and-greet session with head coach Brian Smith and the rest of the
football and front-office staff. They will join their 2007 teammates in
camp at Port Stephens this week to start full-blown pre-season training.
During their previous stints as Knights, MacDougall, Franze and Polglase
were part of a club run on a shoestring budget that only just covered basics
in the areas of support staff, player resources and training facilities.
So they were pleasantly surprised to see so many familiar, and foreign,
faces at the EnergyAustralia Stadium administrative headquarters and training
base at Mayfield's Phoenix Sports club. "I like the way the Knights have
made them very welcome. The whole thing is about acquainting them with
the way the club is run and where everything is for those who don't know,"
Smith said. "For those guys who have been here before, some things are
new for them too. Some of the facilities are new, and there's a whole heap
of new staff here since they were here.
"They were remarking to me how different it was, so even for them it's
about making sure we take out the 'new' factor . . . We're just trying
to make the transition as smooth as possible."
One of the new staff members is Smith's son Rohan, a former assistant
coach at New Zealand Warriors and London Harlequins, filling a newly created
coaching role specialising in statistics, scouting and technical analysis.
The players will begin training at Soldiers Point on Thursday, and Brian
Smith has planned regular skills sessions to go with the standard conditioning
drills between now and the Christmas break. "It's a chance to outline how
we're going to set up our pre-season program, what our goals are and what
we're trying to achieve pre-Christmas in particular . . . and also to have
a bit of social time together," said Smith who started with the Knights
Fairleigh dodges slippery questions on season win;
Central Coast Express Advocate. Nov 10, 2006.
A PREMIERSHIP win, the first in more than 20 years, was far from new
Parramatta assistant coach David Fairleigh's mind when the Eels began preseason
training at Terrigal Beach on Tuesday. Fairleigh, who with head coach Micahel
Hagan comes to the Eels from the Newcastle Knights, was quick to cut short
talk of the club taking out the first grade title for the first time since
1986. The former Test, NSW and North Sydney backrower will act as Hagan's
assistant and will play a major role in the club's defensive pattern next
year. "It's a new challenge for both Michael and I and we're looking forward
to it," Fairleigh, of Wamberal, said. "It's too early to start talking
about winning competitions but I know we've got the players to do it,"
he said. "If we can keep everyone healthy and fit at the business end of
the season we'll be a chance for sure. But we don't want to put too much
pressure on ourselves when we've just started."
The Eels spent several days on the coast this week and begin training
at Parramatta today. New recruits Ian Hindmarsh, Brett Finch and Todd Lowrie
had their first sessions with their new club on Tuesday. "The session wasn't
too full on," Fairleigh said. "It was a pretty easy way to start. It just
gave everyone a chance to get back into it slowly before we start to get
Hughes bids football adieu and eyes new career;
Herald. Nov 25, 2006.
WITHOUT the slightest hint of a French accent, former Knights centre
Mark Hughes is back home for good and ready to begin the next chapter of
Hughes has retired from rugby league after suffering a knee injury
in the penultimate round of the Catalans Dragons' debut Super League season.
A dual premiership-winner with Newcastle, Hughes had signed a two-year
deal with the pioneering Perpignan-based Dragons but negotiated a release
from the final year of the contract because of his injury and the call
of home. "I hyper-extended my knee and when they did the arthroscope, there
was a break under my kneecap at the top of the tibia or fibula, and I was
on crutches for six to eight weeks," said Hughes, who has been back in
Newcastle almost a month. "That meant I had to stay in France about three
or four weeks longer. I played 26 or 27 games and really enjoyed the whole
experience, but with the injury to my leg, I just didn't want to go through
all the rehab and training and everything for another season. For my family
[wife Kirralee and 21/2-year-old son Zac] too, it's good to be back closer
to our families."
Despite recording some upset wins and mostly competitive performances
along the way, the Dragons finished last in their first Super League campaign
but were exempt from relegation and will be back again next year. Hughes
said the decision to pull the pin was not difficult, and that leaving the
Knights last year had prepared him for it. The hardest part for me was
leaving here. That definitely softened the blow for me leaving the club
in France to come back here," he said.
A multiple winner of the clubman of the year award, Hughes played 161
games for the Knights including the 1997 and 2001 grand finals and scored
66 tries in nine seasons of first grade. He represented NSW in all three
games of the 2001 State of Origin series and played for Country Origin,
under new Knights coach Brian Smith, in 2002. Closing in on his 30th birthday
next month, Hughes hopes to be associated with the Knights and the game
in some capacity but not necessarily as a coach or in a formal role with
the club. As he recovered from several long-term injuries in his final
few years at the Knights, he learnt the ropes with the club's sales, marketing
and media relations departments and would like to pursue a career path
in any of those areas. He said he was not interested in playing in the
Newcastle Rugby League Tooheys Cup competition but would lend a hand with
his beloved Kurri Kurri Bulldogs when he could, and he has already been
to one of their training sessions. "I'd like to stay involved some way,
somehow, but maybe not coaching," he said. "I've spoken to a few people,
either at the Knights or involved with the club, and I'd like to help out
somehow if I can, but I'm not pinning all my hopes on that. Footy has been
great to me, but now I'm eager to get out there and into the workforce
in some capacity, maybe in sales or marketing or something . . . I think
I've still got a lot to offer."
Knights around table; Herald. Dec 1, 2006.
NEWCASTLE Knights players have discovered first hand that handling
chopsticks is not quite as easy as handling a football. Players such as
Kirk Reynoldson, Kurt Gidley and Jarrod Mullen received etiquette lessons
this week. The lessons were part of a three-week course, run by the club,
titled First Grade On and Off the Field. The lads have attended sessions
in dress and personal presentation, making effective business relationships
as well as fine dining. Reynoldson, who received a chopstick lesson from
former June Dally-Watkins trainer Alexandra Travers on Wednesday night,
was supportive of the new program.
He believes the program is especially beneficial for younger players.
"It makes you aware of the little things people pick up on when they first
meet you. Things such as dress, whether you look them in the face and how
you respond to questions," he said. This week's workshop has continued
Reynoldson's transformation from the "bearded bushman" to a man of style.
The Knights forward first shed the tag when he shaved off his facial hair,
then earlier this month he established a men's suit business in Newcastle
and now he's mastering chopsticks. Reynoldson joked that he'd gone from
resembling the wild man of Borneo to looking rather cool.
Newcastle Knights welfare and recruitment manager Michael McEntyre
said the program was about building players' skills, knowledge and confidence
in a variety of settings. Despite being voluntary, more than 20 players
attended each workshop. "It aims to help their relationships with sponsors,
supporters and potential employers," he said.
New system could be just the ticket for Knights -
Herald. Dec 12, 2006.
THE Newcastle Knights are trialling a new ticketing system that would
enable supporters to buy reserved seats for games at EnergyAustralia Stadium
at selected Hunter licensed clubs. The Knights' contract with Ticketmaster,
which has an outlet in the club's merchandise store at EAS, expires in
February. Knights chief executive Ken Conway, back at work yesterday after
a four-week holiday, said the new system would be tested with several online
dummy events before then to determine its effectiveness. "The new system
will give us a better distribution . . . and give us a number of different
clubs and outlets where we can sell tickets live," Conway said. "It would
be available at, say, 12 selected clubs around the Hunter Valley, which
means you could walk into any one of those venues and book a particular
seat in a particular row for a particular match. We're still in the trial
stages, and we've got until February to make a decision."
Though their 2007 season-opener against the Bulldogs is not until March
18, Conway said the Knights had already sold as many corporate boxes as
they had for all of the 2006 season. "We're travelling pretty well with
our corporate properties, and we're not far off that with regards to season-ticket
sales," he said.
Knights sample life in a referee's shoes; Herald.
Dec 15, 2006.
NEWCASTLE Knights players completed a referees cadetship with NRL whistleblower
Shayne Hayne at EnergyAustralia Stadium yesterday. The entire first-grade
squad plus a handful of other senior players sat a written test in the
morning before putting their skills into action with a practical session
The players sat through a seminar with Hayne and had to pass a 30-question
exam before taking part in the remainder of the session. All players passed
with flying colours yesterday despite Knights players having troubles with
referees and touch judges this year. Skipper Andrew Johns was suspended
for two matches for abusing touch judge Matt Cecchin this year, which forced
him to downsize his captaincy role when he returned. Second-rower Steve
Simpson and experienced centre Matt Gidley were in charge of speaking to
the referees on the field, but Johns was still captain of the team. Danny
Buderus, who is the NSW captain and had always been deputy to Johns in
the past, was also overlooked for the job. Yesterday they all got a chance
to see things from the referee's perspective.
"It was really good to get an idea of what a referee goes through in
a game, because they have got a really tough job," Buderus said. "It was
all positive stuff, and a few of us had a go at being a referee just to
get a taste of what it is like for them. Obviously they have got a very
tough job to do, but it gave us a chance to see things from their point
of view and gave Shayne a chance to see things from our perspective."
The session is an initiative all clubs are being encouraged to undertake,
and Buderus said it was beneficial for the Knights.
Gids eyes life after footy role; Knights stalwart planning
for future at home club - Herald. Newcastle, Dec 20, 2006.
MATT Gidley has not even left Newcastle yet but has already mapped
out his future with the Knights when he returns in two years. The former
NSW and Australian centre, who has signed a lucrative two-year deal with
St Helens, leaves for England next week to begin pre-season training with
the reigning English Super League champions and Challenge Cup holders.
A consummate clubman, the 29-year-old is the fourth most-capped player
in Knights history having played 221 games from his debut against the Tigers
in 1996 to his farewell against the Broncos in this year's finals. Gidley,
who is halfway through a master's degree in business administration at
university, has spent the past few years working on a mentoring and welfare
program to help players on and off the field in preparation for life after
football. "I've been involved at the club since I was 16, and I've always
been pretty passionate about the place, so I've got a few ideas about a
few things that can maybe help the club keep progressing," Gidley said.
"Most of the major sporting teams in America have got a director of player
personnel on their staff, and I think something like that would be beneficial
to the Knights. I'd love to come back in a couple of years and work alongside
[Knights recruitment and welfare manager] Mick McEntyre in that area of
player education and welfare. After spending Christmas in Newcastle with
his family, Gidley will fly out next Wednesday. His wife Larissa and young
children Ava and Noah will follow once he has settled into their temporary
home in the north of England.
Knights on the ball in pre-season training; Herald.
Dec 23, 2006.
THE first stage of the Knights' pre-season training program ended yesterday
and, although he would like to see a few more healthy bodies around the
place, coach Brian Smith is pleased about their progress. About 25 players
ran the King Edward Park hills, took part in some games, then finished
off with an early-morning swim and team barbecue at Nobbys before players
went their separate ways for Christmas. "The boys who had completed almost
all the sessions and met their targets left on Wednesday and the blokes
who had missed a bit, or had been asked to do a bit more, came along and
had another hit-out this morning," Smith said yesterday. "We asked for
only 15 but we finished up with about 25 blokes."
Strength, skills and defensive drills have formed the nucleus of the
first block of training, which began in early November, and Smith said
players had responded well to his methods. But he said lingering or nagging
injuries had been frustrating for him and the players concerned. "The only
downside I suppose was the number of carry-over injuries from the end of
last season and a few niggles, so there's still a few blokes with a fair
bit to do," he said. Utility Chris Bailey has suffered a setback to his
recovery from an off-season shoulder reconstruction and must go back under
the knife for an arthroscopy or further reconstructive surgery, which would
delay his comeback until May at the earliest. Fullback David Seage, recovering
from another knee reconstruction, has already been earmarked for a mid-season
return. NSW and Australian second-rower Steve Simpson (groin and knee)
and fullback Milton Thaiday (back) have been in the rehab group but should
be back to full training by the end of January and available for trials
against Penrith (February 24) and Cronulla (March 3). "Apart from Chris
and Seagey, everyone else should be right for the trials," Smith said.
Players who need extra training report for duty on January 3 and the whole
squad resume on January 8.