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2023 off season

Knight Tales

Barnes only concern is getting Jackson’s kicking game on point. And yes while Luai and Cleary have played together for a decade, that is not necessarily a yardstick for success. Their pure talent is more the reason.
Tele has a knights 2023 preview. If anyone subscribes and wants to do a copy paste here

NRL team previews 2023: Newcastle Knights free agency wrap, crystal ball, predictions​

The acquisition of Jackson Hastings is set to trigger one of the most significant positional switches in years. Check out our deep dive into the Knights’ season.
Dean Ritchie

7 min read
January 4, 2023 - 3:42PM
News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom

There is mounting pressure on Newcastle’s playing group and coach to perform in 2023 but a strong free agency drive has the club quietly confident heading into the season.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Knights in our exclusive club-by-club deep dive series ahead of the 2023 campaign.
2022 RICH 100 REPS: 6

Kalyn Ponga (No. 4, $1.1m), David Klemmer (28, $800k), Tyson Frizell (48, $700k), Daniel Saifiti ($700k), Jayden Brailey (80, $550k), Dane Gagai (96, $500k)
Newcastle was largely active through the recruitment of Jackson Hastings, Adam Elliott, Jack Hetherington, Tyson Gamble and Greg Marzhew. The club has attracted players to cover a wide-range of positions and clearly look more formidable in 2023. Hastings will be the key. He will finally give Newcastle some much-needed direction and allow Kalyn Ponga to shift into the halves. Some suggest Hastings’ kicking game is among the best in the NRL. Certainly his short kicking game is elite.
Ponga needs his hands on the ball as much as possible. Adam Elliott and Jack Hetherington will give Newcastle’s pack the aggression it lost after allowing David Klemmer to join Wests Tigers. Gamble is a back-up.

O’Brien, Anthony Griffin (Dragons) and Justin Holbrook (Titans) probably start 2023 under the most pressure. Under O’Brien, Newcastle won just six of 24 games in 2022 to run 14th. Newcastle did win 12 from 24 matches in 2021 to reach the finals. No doubt O’Brien is a good coach after learning his craft under the very best. But Newcastle is a fairly unforgiving rugby league region. While fans will cop one bad season, a second in as many years will put O’Brien under heavy pressure. He now has two halves to compliment one-another – there won’t be any excuses in the Hunter this season.


2023 SQUAD: Bradman Best, Jayden Brailey, Adam Clune, Matt Croker, Adam Elliott, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Tyson Frizell, Dane Gagai, Tyson Gamble, Jackson Hastings, Jack Hetherington, Bailey Hodgson, Hymel Hunt, Jack Johns, Brodie Jones, Kurt Mann, Greg Marzhew, Krystian Mapapalangi, Kalyn Ponga, Daniel Saifiti, Jacob Saifiti, Simi Sasagi, Leo Thompson, Enari Tuala, Dominic Young
Ins: Adam Elliott (Raiders), Jackson Hastings (Tigers), Jack Hetherington (Bulldogs), Tyson Gamble (Broncos), Greg Marzhew (Titans)
Outs: Mitchell Barnett (Warriors), Jake Clifford (Super League), David Klemmer (Tigers), Edrick Lee (Dolphins), Jirah Momoisea (Eels), Tex Hoy (Hull FC), Jake Clifford (Hull FC), Anthony Milford (Dolphins), Sauaso Sue (Hull KR), Pasami Saulo (Raiders), Chris Randall (Titans)
1 Bailey Hodgson
2 Greg Marzhew
3 Bradman Best
4 Dane Gagai
5 Dom Young
6 Kalyn Ponga
7 Jackson Hastings
8 Jacob Saifiti
9 Jayden Brailey
10 Daniel Saifiti
11 Tyson Frizell
12 Brodie Jones
13 Adam Elliott
14 Tyson Gamble
15 Leo Thompson
16 Jack Johns
17 Jack Hetherington

A young Jackson Hastings with Newcastle legend Andrew Johns.

A young Jackson Hastings with Newcastle legend Andrew Johns.
He may have snuck in one NRL game late in season 2022 but rising star Oryn Keeley is primed to become Newcastle’s Next Big Thing.
Keeley, 19, is a powerful second rower who was named this year’s under 19s NSW State of Origin player of the year.
He has been forced to overcome a fractured neck and knee problems to set up a future which most believe will be grand.
Keely played one NRL match this year – a 28-22 loss to Canberra in round 23. He has already taken the eye of several NSW stars who watched his performances against Queensland this year.
Bradman Best is a prodigious talent; a player with power and guile. But some at Newcastle don’t believe he has progressed as quickly as many thought. He is an exceptional player, no doubt, but there was a feeling he would be an Origin incumbent by now. He has been forced to overcome several injuries which have hindered his progress. This is a big season for Best. He needs to take that next step into rugby league’s true elite class. He is certainly good enough, big enough and strong enough.
Second time lucky. Will Kalyn Ponga aim up at five-eighth. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty

Second time lucky. Will Kalyn Ponga aim up at five-eighth. Picture: Mark Nolan/Getty
Will Jackson Hastings fit in at Newcastle?
Hastings is a rare talent but has found issues at most of his clubs. He fell out with Tim Sheens at former club Wests Tigers. Hastings needs to find a permanent home and Newcastle looks like the best long-term destination.
Will Ponga be a success in the front line?
Newcastle has wanted to move Ponga to No.6 for the past two years. Yes, he needs the ball in his hands as much as possible but will the extra defensive workload dull his attack? Will he be a ‘spot’ in defence? No doubt Ponga has the size and strength to handle the move – but he can expect to lose some of his model looks.
Can the Saifiti brothers lay a platform?
Daniel and Jacob are now in the NSW State of Origin system. They have each taken their game to another level. But do they need to find more so Hastings and Ponga can show off their traits? Hastings needs to play behind a robust pack. Newcastle’s pack looks strong but will require the Saifiti brothers to step up more than ever now they have two new starting halves.

Where will the Knights finish in 2023?​

Cast your vote

Improve they may but it is difficult to think Newcastle can play finals football. The Knights won only six matches in 2022 and would need to double that – at least – to reach the play offs. Few doubt Newcastle is heading in the right direction but finals footy might be a destination too far away in 2023. A 10th-placed finish would seem acceptable to the realists. A bad start would sap any confidence garnered during the off-season.
2022: 14th
2021: 7th (eliminated first week of finals)
2020: 7th (eliminated first week of finals)
2019: 11th
2018: 11th
2023 ODDS
Premiership: $51
Minor premiership: $151
To make grand final: $23
Top four: $15
Top eight: $6.75
Most losses: $6


Yeah Fitzy isn’t much chop but other than 1 decent game in the centres Jones has done nothing to earn a FG spot let alone a starting spot.

Might be unpopular but Mann is a better player than Gamble and offers way more as a utility.


Staff member
Not controversial at all, Mann's got 160 first grade games and Gambles got about 20 and about to turn 27.
160 games too many if you ask me.

I've seen enough of Mann. Happy for Gamble to get first crack at the bench utility spot

Old School

Totally agree Frederick, Mann is the kid you played juniors with who's dad was the coach(& had no idea)was always overly involved, a real ball hog who wouldn't pass when you needed him to but would pass running straight at you when nothing was on, stuffing everything up. I will give Mann credit for effort, that I'm not disputing but after many years in the NRL he still lacks basic skills & a football brain just like a lot of players these days, I can't believe coaches have not identified & or rectified this by now!


Staff member
In some ways, I prefer the off-season. Look at it this way: we haven't lost a game all year yet! Undefeated!
It's when March / April rolls around that we start losing games again.


AOB on SEN radio this morning confirmed Ponga has been training at 6 for the last 5 months including putting on a bit of muscle

heavily implied (unless we recruit for it) Hodgson has been training as our fullback and then goes on to briefly mention Gagai and gamble have also been training there