Saturday, 10 September 2016

Just How Bad Are The Knights? (2016)

The Newcastle Knights have endured a horror season, but have seemingly been given a free ride from the media. They have been severely hampered financially, which – along with poor salary-cap management – impacted their recruitment.

This has seen a dearth of established talent available at the club, coupled with a horror injury toll and woeful form of experienced players, forcing new coach Nathan Brown to draw upon local juniors. Brown has used 35 players this year, 16 of whom have played less than 10 games this year.

While these are all legitimate issues, it should not excuse them from criticism. Western Suburbs Magpies were the laughing stock of the 1998-99 seasons despite suffering many of the same issues.

On win percentage alone, this Newcastle side is the worst since the 1984 Western Suburbs side, who won just one of their 24 games. It ranks the side at ninth for worst win percentage in a season. Their points difference is currently the fourth-worst in the game’s history, behind the 1999 Wests side (-659), the 1982 Canberra team (-593) and the 1935 Bulldogs (-510), but with a game still to play, this could change.

So just how bad, historically, is this Newcastle outfit?

When compared to every side since 1908 that won three games or less in a year and calculating the average points difference per game in conjunction with the win percentage, it is now possible to see.

There have been 108 sides since 1908 that have won three games or less in a season, with seven going through an entire year winless.

Let’s have a look at the top seven, worst of the worst.

1935 – University – Played 16, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 16, For 109, Against 529 
The 1935 season is chiefly remembered as Eastern Suburbs superstar Dave Brown’s season. ‘The Bradman of League’ racked up pointscoring feats never seen before or since – and poor old University were on the receiving end of his magnificence. The season started promisingly with a tight five-point loss to Souths, but it was all downhill from there. The next week Balmain beat them 47-7, and two weeks later, the Dragons won 43-5. Round 5 saw the ‘Students’ square off against Easts, who won 61-5. Rod O’Loan scored 7 tries, Fred Tottey three and Dave Brown crossed twice. In Round 10 University lost 42-5 to Souths and their return match against Easts in Round 14 saw Dave Brown score 22 of his sides points from four tries and five goals in a 40-5 rout. The following week they lost 45-14 against Wests.

1937 – University – Played 8, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 8, For 41, Against 309
The Students’ last season was their worst. Thankfully for them, the shortened season only lasted only eight games. But those eight games probably felt like an eternity. They lost their first game to Souths 63-0 before having a bye. In Round 5, University lost 52-5 to the near-unbeatable Easts side and were probably lucky that score wasn’t vastly worse. They went down 48-3 against Newtown the next week and a fortnight later were thumped 65-5 by St.George.

1921 – University – Played 8, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 8, For 82, Against 292 
The second season for the Students was just as bad as their first. They opened the season on the end of a 57-0 flogging from the champion Balmain side. In Round 4 they went down to Souths 45-7 and followed it up with a 45-16 loss to Glebe the following week. In the penultimate round, they lost 55-11 to Easts.

1920 – Annandale – Played 13, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 13, For 59, Against 382
The ’Dales last season in the top grade was their second winless season. They were kept scoreless in 3 of their opening 4 games and managed double figures just twice in their 13 games. They lost in Round 1 to Glebe 43-0 and after the opening five rounds had been played, they had scored just five points and conceded 118. In Round 6 they lost 42-10 against Easts before a return match against Glebe in Round 10 saw them thumped again 44-11. The following week Wests belted them 52-3 and their second-last game resulted in a Norths win by 44-3. Annandale’s last ever game was a 15-0 loss to Easts.

1918 – Annandale – Played 14, Won 0, Drew 0, For 73, Against 316
Annandale’s first winless season wasn’t one full of blowout scorelines, but it was one where the club averaged barely over one try a game and exactly one goal per game. In Round 2 they lost 36-15 to Souths and in Round 4 they lost 21-0 to Newtown before Balmain belted them 43-0 the following week. A fortnight later they lost 42-3 against Wests, followed by a 29-0 loss to Glebe. This horror period destroyed their season and was the beginning of the end for the club, who would be dead in two years’ time.

2016 – Newcastle – Played 24, Won 1, Drew 1, Lost 22, For 305, Against 800
Newcastle has conceded 33.33 points per game, the worst since Souths’ 33.83 in 2004. The Knights have conceded 40 points or more seven times so far, including two 50-plus totals and a season-high 62 points. They have been held to nil three times and failed to reach double figures a further four times. The modern game is a vastly more even competition than those of the past, so to be this far behind the field is truly woeful.

1966 – Easts – Played 18, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 18, For 147, Against 346
The last team to go through a season winless, but despite that, the Tricolours were rarely disgraced by blowout score-lines. A Round 14 loss to Manly by 53-0 was the only time they conceded more than 35 in a game. Seven of their 18 games had a margin of less than 10 – but they did lose all 18 games.

1946 – South Sydney – Played 14, Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 14, For 124, Against 353: One of the lowest ebbs for the ‘Pride of the League’, the Rabbitohs were the first of only two sides to go winless in the post-WWII era.

1984 – Western Suburbs – Played 24, Won 1, Drew 0, Lost 23, For 244, Against 620: Given a stay of execution by the NSWRL to remain in the premiership, the Ken Gentle-coached Magpies’ only win was a 13-10 defeat of fellow strugglers Illawarra. Wests leaked 40-plus points on four occasions.

1993 – Gold Coast – Played 22, Won 1, Drew 0, Lost 21, For 229, Against 572: The last team to win only one game in a season, Wally Lewis’ Seagulls side managed an upset of Newcastle in Round 6 before losing 16 straight. A 46-0 loss to Manly and a 50-6 defeat in the return clash with the Knights in the latter rounds capped a diabolical campaign that saw ‘The King’ abdicate.

Worst Points difference in a year
1999 – Wests (-659)
1982 – Canberra (-593)
1935 – Canterbury (-510)
2016 – Newcastle (-495)
2002 – Souths (-432)
1998 – Wests (-431)
1935 – University (-420)
2013 – Parramatta (-414)

Worst Win % in a year
1966 – Easts 0% (18 games)
1935 – University 0% (16 games)
1918 – Annandale 0% (14 games)
1946 – Souths 0% (14 games)
1920 – Annandale 0% (13 games)
1937 – University 0% (8 games)
1921 – University 0% (8 games)
1984 – Wests 4.17% (24 games)
2016 – Newcastle 4.17% (24 games)
1993 – Gold Coast 4.55% (22 games)

**This article appeared on the Commentary Box Sports website**

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