Our previews now reach the Newcastle Knights - and Paul Jobber looks at the first season in over 20 years in which "supercoach" Wayne Bennett failed to guide a side to September footy.
The Good: The Knights did show some good signs especially in the latter half of the season which will no doubt give their fans plenty of cause for optimism in 2013.
The Round 15 match against the Tigers at Hunter Stadium snapped a four-game losing streak and sparked a run of six wins in seven weeks which lifted their finals hopes after it seemed the Novocastrians would be fighting it out for the wooden spoon. The Knights trailed 14-0 early before scoring 38 unanswered points including 22 in a 10-minute blitz just before and after halftime.
The 32-6 hammering of the Sea Eagles in Round 18 was arguably their most complete performance before they gave the Warriors an 18-point head start before running them down 24-19 across the Tasman a week later.
The mid-season acquisition of Willie Mason was met with uncertainty at the time but supercoach Wayne Bennett weaved his magic on the Toronto-product turning him into one of, if not the buy of the season. Mason gave the Knights a little more presence up front which enabled them to lay the foundation for halves Mullen and Roberts to create scoring opportunities for their outside backs. Centre Dane Gagai also played a significant role in the Knights mid-season revival despite playing his first game for the club in the disappointing 32-16 loss to the Raiders where he was the shining light on an otherwise dark and gloomy night in the Hunter where some fans booed the team off Hunter Stadium.
Both Mason and Gagai were astute signings and helped the Knights in an area they struggled in for the first half of the season.
Turning Point: It Like