Comment – 7 February 2004
The 2003 season for the Knights Premier League side was disappointing in terms of on-field results, but I feel that history will prove the 2003 season to be when a great group of young forwards began to emerge for the Knights. Players such as Matt Kennedy, Andrew Price, Reegan Tanner, Todd Lowrie, Luke Quigley, Blake Mueller and Michael Ennis all made their respective first grade debuts in 2003. Other young forwards emerged from the junior ranks to make their mark in Premier League, such as the giant Dane Tilse, the bookend 18 year old props Worth and White, Mathew Bartlett, big Dan Tolar and the NSW under 18 lock forward Riley Brown.
For the 2003 season we have added a giant prop from the Newcastle comp, Dave Goodridge, and the experience of Jamie Fitzgerald, who has played first grade for several NRL sides in recent years.
The backs in 2003 were largely not up to standard, and this has been reflected in a huge recruitment drive for 2004. New to the club will be George Carmont, Trent Salkeld, Daniel Spiteri, Kevin Henderson, David Seage and Russell Richardson. Backs from last season who may still be in contention for a spot include Joshua Smith, Jarod Taylor and Michael Young, while Michael Doggett and Blake Tremain-Cannon are possibilities to emerge from the junior ranks.
Carmont is a 25-year-old Kiwi who played one season with Raymond Terrace in the real NRL and showed himself to be a player who has a very high work rate from centre. He made several impressive cover tackles in the recent International Sevens and is seriously being considered for first grade on the strength of his form at training.
Salkeld is a Tamworth boy who came down to try out for the Knights three years ago and has been playing in the real NRL ever since. He has improved enough to get a run for the Knights this season.
Spiteri is the real fairy tale story of our new recruits, or he will be if he makes the cut after the trials. He is a League junior who tried his hand at Union two seasons ago and became a try-scoring machine in the local comp. Last season he returned to League and started the year in the thirds for Cessnock, where he proved to be a freak with the ball in hand. By the end of the season he was setting try scoring records in the Newcastle comp with 36 in all grades. Spiteri had a long-standing commitment to play for Country in the recent 7s comp, which is probably the only reason he was not named in the Knights outfit. From all reports the slightly built Spiteri has bulked up by several kilos in off-season training and is now around the same size as Robbie O. He has been one of the most dedicated trainers at the club, and has earned his shot at making the squad in the trials.
Henderson is a Central Coast boy who played last season for South Sydney in Premier League. He was recommended to the Knights by David Fairleigh and is said to be a big and powerful centre.
Seage is a fullback who has shown a wide range of attacking skills in the Queensland Cup in recent seasons. Those who have seen him play feel he will push for first grade very soon.
Richardson has played for Australia, so all we want from him is to see him regain his best form. He still has three or four good years in him, if he can find the desire to play.
The halves for this season will be chosen from Chris Tyrie, Steve Witt, Brad ‘The Shadow’ Wallace and possibly Chad Solman. Tyrie is the former golden boy of our junior ranks. This season is his last chance to make good. Witt is a Parramatta outcast with brilliant attack but questionable defence. He is young enough to still improve in leaps and bounds. Brad Wallace is a half – five-eighth who was emerging as a rival for Tyrie towards the end of last season. He is a former schoolboy rep player. Solman is a big and hard running five-eighth who came to us from the AIS and was very impressive in his junior games last season.
At the start of last season the players in our Premier League side had a total of three first grade appearances between them (all by Josh Smith), and many of the players had less than a dozen or so games in open age competition, but this season we will potentially start with ten players with first grade experience, some of them veterans (Richardson and Fitzgerald). Our forward pack is very close to unchanged from last season, but they began last year as juniors aiming up, and they begin this year as guys who have proved themselves in first grade. Our new backs are all guys who have played open age football for a number of seasons and are all ready to take a step up in class. In the halves we look to have a lot of potential, but no proven performers at this time. Tyrie should improve dramatically now that he has a strong team around him.
I predict that the Knights will make the finals this year.