The Newcastle Knights returned to the training paddock this week under the watchful eye of head coach Adam O’Brien.
After finishing the 2020 season in seventh spot, on the back of 11 victories, the Hunter club contested finals football for the first time in seven years.
And, while the South Sydney Rabbitohs dented the Knights’ premiership aspirations, thanks to a 46-20 drubbing in an elimination semi, expectation is high within the organisation of not only repeating that feat in 2021 but climbing the ladder even further.
Newcastle will hope new signings – NSW State of Origin star Tyson Frizell (St George Illawarra Dragons), powerful forward Sauaso Sue (Canterbury Bulldogs), Bailey Hodgson (Castleford) and Dominic Young (Huddersfield) – complement the existing talented roster, while Jack Johns – the son of Matthew and nephew of Andrew – is back in the “blue, red and white” strip on a development deal from the Rabbitohs.
The Knights have also wrapped up gifted North Queensland Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford on a two-year contract from 2022, ensuring the future remains bright for the club.
With a big pre-season under its belt, in sweltering conditions, Newcastle will be confident of making a fast start out of the blocks in 2021 with three of their opening four matches at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Knights are scheduled to tackle the Trent Barrett-mentored Canterbury Bulldogs in round one on Friday 12 March, followed by a trip across the ditch to face the New Zealand Warriors, ahead of home games against the Wests Tigers and Dragons.
Meanwhile, O’Brien is expecting talks with skipper Mitchell Pearce, to extend his stay at Newcastle, will take place soon.
It augurs well for a successful year on and off the field.