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Australia's leading bookmakers today rushed to virtually dismiss Newcastle as a premiership no-hoper upon confirmation Andrew Johns would miss the rest of the National Rugby League season. Most bookies suspended betting on all things involving the Knights when news began to filter through this afternoon that something was amiss with the champion halfback and Test captain.
By the time Johns had publicly announced he'd suffered a season-ending neck injury, the Knights had drifted to as much as $23 outsiders for the title.
“Stats show they can't win,” said SportsTAB's Glenn Munsie.
Indeed, the Knights' damning record without their inspirational skipper cruelly expose Michael Hagan's team as almost a one-man band.
According to official NRL Stats, since 1998, Newcastle has won just nine games from 24 starts (37.5 per cent) in the absence of Johns.
During the same period, the Knights have been successful in 66 per cent of matches with Johns on deck.
The last time Johns missed a match they were hammered 52-12 by lowly Wests Tigers three weeks ago.
The Knights started the day as $8 fancies with IASBet to win the competition, $8.50 with SportsTAB and SportOdds and $9 with Centrebet.
They are now $16 with IASBet, $17 with SportsTAB, $21 with Centrebet and $23 with SportOdds.
Michael Hagan's team has also blown out in betting to make the finals.
Newcastle started as short as $1.08 with SportsTAB to make the top eight, but tonight was a $1.65 chance with Centrebet to hang on and qualify for the playoffs.
“And you'd have to say a big risk to make the eight at that because they've got a torrid run home,” Centrebet's Gerard Daffy said.
The eighth-placed Knights host the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night, then have away games against Canberra and St George Illawarra before finishing the regular season at home against North Queensland.
“It's quite feasible that the Knights won't win another game without him, judging by the way they went against Wests a few weeks ago,” Daffy said.
“It's worth noting (Newcastle) against Wests was the biggest plunge of the year for (Wests) and that was on the back of him not playing.”