The Newcastle Knights are an Australian professional rugby league team based in Newcastle, New South Wales that competes in the National Rugby League (NRL) premiership. Playing in red and blue, the Knights joined the top tier competition in 1988, 79 years after the previous Newcastle based team, the Newcastle Rebels had departed the Sydney competition with the formation of a separate league competition based in the Newcastle region.

Newcastle Knights
Club information
Full nameNewcastle Rugby League
Football Club
Current details
CEOPhil Gardner
CoachAdam O'Brien
CaptainJayden Brailey & Kalyn Ponga
CompetitionNational Rugby League
Current season
Home colours
Away colours
Premierships2 (1997, 2001)
Wooden spoons4 (2005, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Most capped257Danny Buderus
Highest try scorer109Akuila Uate
Highest points scorer2,176Andrew Johns

The club has won the premiership twice (1997 and 2001) and is one of only two clubs (the other being the Wests Tigers) that has never lost a grand final in which it has participated.[1] Notable players include: Paul Harragon, Robbie O'Davis, Danny Buderus and rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns. The team's home ground is McDonald Jones Stadium.

History edit

A Newcastle rugby league team had been assembled from players in the Newcastle Rugby League to compete in various competitions for most of the 20th century. The Newcastle Knights entered the New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) competition in 1988 with Allan McMahon as coach. Newcastle had previously been invited to field a team in the NSWRL competition for the 1982 season but declined, worried it would weaken the area's local league competition. The Canberra Raiders were admitted to the 1982 competition in their place.

The team was a success from the start, becoming one of the most popular clubs in its first season. By 1990, the team was strong enough to enter a play-off for fifth spot.

The club won their first competition, the Nissan Sevens, in 1991 and made the playoffs in 1992, where they were beaten by the St George Dragons. The Knights made the semi-finals again in 1995 when the competition became the Australian Rugby League (ARL), and won the reserve grade premiership the same year.

The club stayed loyal to the ARL when Rupert Murdoch started Super League in an attempt to win pay television rights to rugby league. This decision was very popular in the Newcastle and Hunter Region areas. News Limited formed the Hunter Mariners to compete with the Knights in the one and only season of Super League in Australia, but the Mariners failed to win much support in the area.

From 1997 to 2003, the Knights achieved a finals berth for seven consecutive years. The Knights won the 1997 Australian Rugby League premiership, defeating the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 22–16 in the Grand Final. The match is best remembered for its classic finish – with Darren Albert breaking a 16-all deadlock with a try just seven seconds from full-time. This win was a huge morale boost to the district following the closure of the area's biggest employer, the BHP Newcastle Steelworks, being announced earlier the same year. Seventy per cent of the winning squad were Newcastle juniors. In this year Robbie O'Davis won the Clive Churchill Medal.

The following season, Knights players Robbie O'Davis, Wayne Richards and Adam MacDougall tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs; however, all three maintained they started use after the Knights' 1997 victory. The three were suspended, despite O'Davis' claims the club was not notified his drug was banned until after his positive test, and MacDougall's medical reason for taking the steroids (his usage continued after he completed his suspension, now approved by the NRL). In addition, the Knights terminated Wayne Richards' contract.

Newcastle International Sports Centre at night showing the old main grandstand

In 1998, the Newcastle club finished equal on competition points with the Brisbane Broncos, but finished second on points differential (sum of points scored less points scored against). In 1999, the Knights lost their final two games of the regular season to finish 7th, before being knocked out a week later by the Parramatta Eels. The Knights came third in 2000, followed by a National Rugby League Premiership victory over the Parramatta Eels in 2001, with Andrew Johns winning the Clive Churchill Medal.

Andrew Johns won the Dally M Medal for best player in the National Rugby League twice in a row in 1998 and 1999, and won an unprecedented third Dally M Medal in 2002. In addition, Johns also won the Provan-Summons Medal (the people's choice award for player of the year) four years in a row from 1998 to 2001, the best performance by any player in the history of the award.

The club failed to win a single match in the first half of the 2005 premiership, losing 13 consecutive matches which was the worst start to a season by any club since the 1960s. In 2006, the Knights finished the season in fourth position, a stunning reversal in form, but were eliminated from the finals after losing in the semi-final to the Brisbane Broncos, going down 50–6.

Prior to the 2006 NRL season kick-off it was announced that the club's longest serving coach, Michael Hagan would depart the club following the 2006 season to begin a three-year contract with the Parramatta Eels. Ironically, during the week of the 2006 season-opening game against Parramatta, the Newcastle outfit confirmed Parramatta coach Brian Smith would take over coaching duties in 2007.

The 2007 NRL season was a year of turmoil for the club both on and off the field. After making a promising start to the season with victories over contenders such as the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs – the club and rugby league world was rocked by the shock retirement of Andrew Johns. The departure of their captain and most influential player had an obvious effect on the team, and although they managed to stay in touch with the top eight until the last third of the season, their season was irreparably damaged by his absence. In addition to this, the Knights endured the worst injury toll in the 2007 season fielding thirty seven players in first grade by season's end.

The club also struggled off-field, with Brian Smith's decision to release players such as Clint Newton, Kirk Reynoldson, and Josh Perry. Newton's took a contract at Melbourne and Reynoldson threatened legal action over the club refusing to play him in the fifteen games required to trigger his fourth contract.

Before the final round of 2007, Tab Sportsbet's Glenn Munsie was reported in the Daily Telegraph saying that the Newcastle side were certainties for the 'wooden spoon' (coming last in the season) and "it was pointless taking money on the wooden spoon gong given Newcastle would be firmly planted at the bottom of the ladder by the end of the weekend".[2] Despite these pressures, the Knights managed to avoid a second wooden spoon in three years – offloading the dreaded piece of 'silverware' to the Penrith Panthers with a last round victory over the Wests Tigers.

2008 was a resurgence year for the Novocastrians narrowly missing out on the finals. Newcastle started the 2009 NRL season convincingly equaling their best home winning streak of nine wins in 1995. Towards the end of the season coach Brian Smith announced he was leaving Newcastle to join the troubled Sydney Roosters in 2010. Over the next weeks assistant coach Rick Stone was announced as the new coach of the Newcastle club. Toward the end of the season the Knights lost three games in a row which put them in doubt for the finals. They then had an outstanding comeback to beat eventual grand finalists, Parramatta up the ladder. They finished the year 7th out of 16 after losing to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in week one of the finals.

On 16 December 2009 it was announced player Danny Wicks was caught-up in a drug issue involving amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy. He was stood down from the club. Wicks' contract was terminated. For the 2010 NRL season Newcastle signed McDonald's and Coca-Cola as major sponsors. In March 2010 Chris Houston was served with notice to attend court on charges of supplying ecstasy and cocaine.[3] He was stood down indefinitely. June 2010 signalled a good period for the Knights after they confirmed the signings of 2009 Toyota Cup Player of the Year Beau Henry on a three-year contract, 2009 Toyota Cup Centre of the Year Siuatonga Likiliki on a two-year contract and former Australian international prop Antonio Kaufusi on a two-year contract. In the next few days, the Knights also confirmed the signings of current Queensland Maroons star Neville Costigan on a three-year contract, and the promising young backrower Kyle O'Donnell on a two-year contract.

The Knights finished 11th in the 2010. While the club did not play in the finals, Adam MacDougall recorded the most tries for the club and Akuila Uate equaled the most tries in a season. In December 2010, former Newcastle player Chris Houston was cleared of all drug charges and re-signed with the club for two years. In March 2011, Newcastle were officially taken over by mining magnate Nathan Tinkler after a member's vote in which Tinkler won by 97%. In April 2011, Newcastle confirmed the signing of Wayne Bennett. The Knights finished 8th in 2011, being eliminated in the first week of the finals. After the 2011 season, the Knights cleaned out 15 players, but nine other renowned players were signed including club legends Danny Buderus and Timana Tahu, Kangaroos winger Darius Boyd and Kangaroos forward Kade Snowden.

The Newcastle club celebrated 25 years in the NRL competition in 2012. Captain Kurt Gidley succumbed to a shoulder injury early in the season which resulted in him missing the remainder of the year. The team failed to click and won only 10 of their 24 games to finish 12th. During the year, the club signed Willie Mason and Dane Gagai.

Newcastle finished 7th on the ladder and making the third week of the finals by beating the Melbourne Storm in Melbourne in the second week of the finals. Newcastle were defeated the following week by the Sydney Roosters in the preliminary final 40-14.[4]

In round 3 of the 2014 NRL Season, Newcastle played against the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park. Shortly before half time, Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon was involved in a three-man tackle that involved Jordan McLean and the Bromwich brothers (Jesse and Kenny). McKinnon suffered fractures to his C4 and C5 vertebrae. Later in Round 19, the NRL held the 'Rise for Alex Round', where for every ticket sold, $1 would be donated to McKinnon to assist with his continuous medical bills and rehabilitation funds.

On 7 July 2015 coach Rick Stone[5] was sacked after a string of disappointing results, and Danny Buderus would coach for the remainder of the 2015 season. In round 26 against Penrith, Newcastle went down 30-12 to claim their second wooden spoon.[6]

In September 2015, Newcastle signed Nathan Brown to a three-year contract to coach starting from 2016. During the 2016 season, the club debuted 11 players in the NRL, while losing co-captain Tariq Sims midway through to year to go to St. George Illawarra. Against Cronulla in round 10, Newcastle were defeated 62-0, their biggest defeat at home and second biggest defeat in history. Newcastle would only win one game all year, to claim the wooden spoon for a second consecutive season, and third overall.

2017 was the Knights' 30th year in the NRL where they finished last again, claiming their third Wooden Spoon in a row.[7]

In December 2017, the Newcastle Knights expressed their interest in applying for a licence to participate in the inaugural NRL Women's season.[8]

In November 2017, the club was sold to Wests Group, a Newcastle-based not for profit club, after being administered by the NRL since the departure of Nathan Tinkler.[9] The following season marked a resurgence for the club, with the arrivals of high profile halfback Mitchell Pearce, sought after rookie fullback Kalyn Ponga, as well as Queensland Origin representative Aidan Guerra and several other players. The team started the season strongly, winning five of their opening eight games to sit comfortably inside the top 8. However, with a long term injury to Mitchell Pearce, the side won only four of their remaining 12 matches to finish 11th.

2019 saw the arrival of forwards David Klemmer and Tim Glasby, boosting the team's forward pack. After winning their opening match, Newcastle lost five consecutive games before reversing their fortunes with five consecutive victories to reach 4th place. The Knights would finish in 11th place.[10] In the 2020 season, Newcastle would reach the finals for the first time since 2013 after finishing 7th on the table. Newcastle were eliminated in the first week of the finals by South Sydney losing 46-20.[11]

In 2021, Newcastle would reach the finals once again finishing 7th on the table. For the second straight year, they would go out in the first week of the finals losing to Parramatta 28-20.[12] In 2022, the Newcastle side finished 14th on the table winning six games for the entire year.[13][14] In round 18 of the 2023 NRL season, Newcastle recorded their biggest ever victory as a club when they defeated Canterbury 66-0.[15] Newcastle would end up finishing the 2023 NRL season in 5th place after winning nine straight matches, coming from 14th on the table after round 17. In week one of the finals, Newcastle defeated Canberra in extra-time 30-28. In week two, Newcastle would lose 40-10 against the New Zealand Warriors which ended their season.[16]

Emblem and colours edit

Logos edit

In 1988, the Newcastle Knights were re-established to represent rugby league in the Hunter region once more. Newcastle adopted 'The Knights' moniker as a reference to its ‘steel city' industrial heritage. The jersey colours of red and blue were adopted from the district's representative side that wore red jerseys, white shorts and blue socks.[17]

Primary jerseys edit

Players edit

Current squad edit

Top 30 squad - 2024 NRL season Supplementary list Coaching staff

Extended squad

Head coach

Assistant coaches

  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice-captain(s)

Updated: 13 November 2023
Source(s): Newcastle Knights Profiles

Captains edit

All players that have captained the Newcastle Knights in first-grade.

Cap No. Name Years As Captain Debut Round Games As Captain
1. Sam Stewart 1988–90 Round 1 40
2. Glenn Miller 1988 Round 17 3
3. Michael Hagan 1989–93 Round 15 91
4. Peter Johnston 1990 Round 8 1
5. Mark Sargent 1994–95 Round 1 26
6. Robbie McCormack 1994 Round 4 3
7. Paul Harragon 1995–99 Round 7 71
8. Matthew Johns 1995–99 Round 18 21
9. Tony Butterfield 1997, 1999–00 Round 3 46
10. Andrew Johns 1998, 2000–07 Round 23 106
11. Bill Peden 2000–02 Round 10 13
12. Ben Kennedy 2001, 2003–04 Round 24 9
13. Matt Parsons 2002–03 Finals Week 2 5
14. Steve Simpson 2003, 2006–10 Round 15 18
15. Danny Buderus 2004–08, 2012 Round 7 67
16. Robbie O'Davis 2004 Round 14 1
17. Matthew Gidley 2004–05 Round 17 2
18. Craig Smith 2005 Round 14 3
19. Jarrod Mullen 2007, 2010–11, 2013-14 Round 11 21
20. Kirk Reynoldson 2007 Round 13 1
21. Adam Woolnough 2007 Round 16 1
22. Kurt Gidley 2007–15 Round 19 123
23. Chris Houston 2008–09, 2012–13 Round 13 5
24. Daniel Tolar 2010 Round 14 1
25. Wes Naiqama 2011 Round 16 2
26. Beau Scott 2015 Round 1 2
27. Trent Hodkinson 2016-17 Round 1 30
28. Jeremy Smith 2016 Round 1 21
29. Tariq Sims 2016 Round 6 8
30. Sione Mata'utia 2017 Round 8 15
31. Jamie Buhrer 2017–19 Round 18 30
32. Mitchell Pearce 2018–20 Round 1 59
33. Aidan Guerra 2018 Round 8 9
34. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 2019 Round 16 1
35. Jayden Brailey 2021–23 Round 1 30
36. Daniel Saifiti 2021 Round 1 17
37. Kalyn Ponga 2021–23 Round 21 39
38. Tyson Frizell 2022–23 Round 2 22
39. Dane Gagai 2023 Round 3 1
40. Jackson Hastings 2023 Round 3 1
41. Jacob Saifiti 2023 Round 27 1

Coaches edit

Jersey edit

Manufacturers edit

Home jerseys edit

1988–1996 1997–2000 2001–2004 2005–2007
2008–2010 2011–2012 2013–2014 2015–2016
2017–2018 2019–present

Away jerseys edit

2000–2002 2003–2005 2006–2007 2008–2009
2010–2011 2012 2013 2014–2015

Other jerseys edit

1988 Trial 2008 Heritage 2009–2011 Heritage 2012 Heritage
2014 Women In League 2015 Heritage

Record edit

Head-to-head records edit

Opponent Played Won Drawn Lost Win %
  Rabbitohs 47 28 0 19 59.57
  Titans 28 15 0 13 53.57
  Sharks 60 32 1 27 53.33
  Tigers 36 19 0 17 52.78
  Eels 58 30 1 27 51.72
  Cowboys 44 22 0 22 50.00
  Warriors 48 24 1 23 50.00
  Dolphins 2 1 0 1 50.00
  Bulldogs 55 26 1 28 47.27
  Raiders 56 25 2 29 44.64
  Panthers 55 24 4 27 43.64
  Sea Eagles 59 23 1 35 38.98
  Roosters 60 21 2 37 35.00
  Storm 46 16 0 30 34.78
  Dragons 43 14 0 29 32.56
  Broncos 55 17 1 37 30.91
Games Wins Drawn Losses
847 394 17 436

Last updated on 3 March 2023. Source:[19]

Major sponsors edit

Awards and achievements edit

Club Premiership honours edit

Premierships: 2 (1997*, 2001)

Finals Series: 16 (1992, 1995, 1997*, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2020, 2021, 2023)

* ARL season only

Statistics edit

Individual records edit

Career edit

Most Games

Most Points

Most Tries

Most Goals

Season edit

Most Points

Most Tries

Match edit

Most Points

Most Tries

Most Goals

Club song edit

Go Hard, Go Knights (1995–present)

Playin' hard, playin' tough,
Just plain good is not good enough,
We're gonna show you what league's all about,
If there's a lesson to be learned we're handing it out.

This game is our game,
This town is our town,
Turn the heat up and listen to the crowd.
Go hard, Go Knights, Go proud.

This game is our game,
This town is our town,
Turn the heat up and listen to the crowd.
Go hard, Go Knights, Go proud.

Supporters edit

Newcastle Knights fans have been described as being among the most rabid in the NRL[20] and in 2008, 2011 and 2012, were the third best supported club in the league.[21] In 2008, the average home game attendance was 18,750, 19,186 in 2011 and 20,919 in 2012. In 2012, the Knights also had the largest Monday Night Football crowd of the year with 18,637 fans turning up in Round 16.[22]

Some notable supporters of the club include;

Women's team edit

On 11 June 2021, the Newcastle Knights were granted a licence to compete in the 2021 National Rugby League Women's (NRLW) competition. Recently retired Knights player Blake Green was announced as the head coach.[44] The season was planned to commence in August 2021, postponed to October 2021 and further postponed to 2022 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[45]

On 1 July 2021, the Knights announced their first ever NRLW signing in Indigenous All Stars and Prime Minister's XIII representative Caitlan Johnston, who was a foundation Tarsha Gale Cup player for the Knights in 2018 before spending two seasons with the Sydney Roosters NRLW side.[46]

On 25 November 2021, it was announced that Knights Tarsha Gale Cup coach Casey Bromilow would be taking on the head coach role after Green had been appointed into a specialist halves role alongside Andrew Johns with Newcastle's NRL side.[47] Jess Skinner was announced as the assistant coach.[48] On the same day, the Knights announced a further six Newcastle and Hunter based signings in Bobbi Law from the Sydney Roosters, Jayme Fressard from the Brisbane Broncos and Georgia Page from the St. George Illawarra Dragons, as well as Phoebe Desmond, Chantelle Graham and Kyra Simon from local teams. Six development players were also announced in Bree Chester, Sophie Clancy, Matilda Jones, Kayla Romaniuk, Jesse Southwell and Tylah Vallance.[49]

On 1 December 2021, the Knights signed nine Kiwi Ferns representatives in Ngatokotoru Arakua, Maitua Feterika, Annetta Nu'uausala, Charntay Poko, Krystal Rota, Charlotte Scanlan, Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly, Katelyn Vaha'akolo and Kararaina Wira-Kohu,[50] Two days later, the club signed Romy Teitzel from the Brisbane Broncos, AFLW player Paige Parker, rugby sevens player Emma Sykes and North Queensland Gold Stars players Rangimarie Edwards-Bruce, Katie Green, Emma Manzelmann and Tahlulah Tillett.[51]

In January 2022, the Knights signed Kirra Dibb from the New Zealand Warriors after Emma Sykes withdrew from the squad.[52] On 21 February, the 24-woman squad was finalised with the signing of Shannon Evans from the Central Coast Roosters[53] and Romy Teitzel was named team captain, Caitlan Johnston and Krystal Rota named as club captains.[54]

The club played in 5 matches without a win in its inaugural season.[55]

In April 2022, Ronald Griffiths was announced as the new head coach for the upcoming season.[56]

On 18 May 2022, the Knights announced the signing of Australian Jillaroos players Millie Boyle and Tamika Upton for their second season in the competition.[57][58] Additional notable signings for the 2022 season were Sydney Roosters premiership winning players Yasmin Clydsdale, Olivia Higgins, Simone Karpani, Tayla Predebon, Hannah Southwell,[59][60] former Jillaroos player Caitlin Moran and former Roosters players Shanice Parker and Kiana Takairangi.[61]

On 16 August 2022, Millie Boyle and Hannah Southwell were appointed co-captains of the club.[62]

After winning 4 of its 5 regular season games, the Knights won their first premiership during the 2022 NRL Women's season, defeating the Parramatta Eels 32–12.[63]

2023 NRLW top 24 squad Development list Coaching staff

Head coach

  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice-captain(s)

Updated: 16 September 2023
Source(s): Newcastle Knights Profiles,
Rugby League Project

References edit

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  7. ^ Encarnacion, Matt (4 September 2017). "NRL 2017: Cronulla Sharks warm up for finals with scrappy win against Newcastle Knights". Retrieved 5 September 2017 – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
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  33. ^ "Thomas Fraser-Holmes emerges as Olympic medal chance in 400m IM". The Courier-Mail. 28 July 2012.
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  36. ^[bare URL]
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  62. ^ "2022 NRLW Co-Captains announced". Newcastle Knights. 16 August 2022.
  63. ^ "Custom Match List - Rugby League Project".

Further reading edit

  • ABC Australian Sports Almanac 2002

External links edit