It’s not easy to go from worst to first in just a couple of months but Newcastle’s NRLW side are just 80 minutes away from pulling off one of the great turnarounds in rugby league history.
- Newcastle didn’t win a match in their inaugural NRLW season earlier this year
- Courtesy of an incredible turnaround, the Knights have risen from the ashes to claim a grand final berth this weekend
- The Novocastrians will be favourites against Parramatta with both sides chasing their first NRLW title
The Knights went winless in their inaugural NRLW season earlier this year, dropping all five games to finish with the wooden spoon.
But with a revamped roster and coaching staff, Newcastle have risen from the ashes to storm into the club’s first NRLW grand final on Sunday, where they’ll have the chance to complete their resurrection with victory over Parramatta.
According to star five-eighth Kirra Dibb, the foundations for the club’s phoenix act were laid in those difficult days earlier this year.
“We went into every game last year like we were going to win and we have that mentality now, the points are just going our way this time,” Dibb said.
“Lots of bits and pieces have changed, but the platform we laid in our inaugural year really gave us something solid to stand on for this season.
“Grand finals don’t come along every day. It’s so exciting to be part of the first one for the Knights.”
Knights topple Dragons
From the opening match, Newcastle looked a different team this season.
On the back of star recruits Millie Boyle and Tamika Upton, and the appointment of new coach Ronald Griffiths, the Knights won four of their five regular season matches before toppling the Dragons in last week’s preliminary final.
Dibb has enjoyed the best season of her NRLW career, pairing well with rookie sensation Jesse Southwell in the halves, and using her dynamic running game and prodigious boot to pilot the reborn Knights to within a game of premiership glory.
“I put it down to experience. I know my own strengths and what I want to play too during a game, but I know the strengths of everyone around me,” Dibb said.
“As a half, my job isn’t just to play of my own accord – I have to make sure my team can get over the line.
“Getting that experience has given me a wider perspective, I know how to get the best out of myself and everybody else.”
Newcastle will have to overturn another fairytale on Sunday if they’re lift the trophy.
Parramatta won just one game through the regular season but scored a massive upset over the previously unbeaten Roosters in last week’s other prelim to earn a berth in the decider.
Botht their clashes this season have been tough and gritty encounters – the Eels got up by a point earlier in the year while a late Dibb conversion earned the Knights a two-point victory in their most recent meeting three weeks ago.
The Knights carry favouritism into the clash at Stadium Australia, but given they know exactly what the Eels have been through this season they’ll overlook nothing in their quest to win the club’s first premiership.
“They had a few close losses where they just went down and they were like us last season – they didn’t get the results, but their effort never stopped. They gave us one of our toughest matches this season,” Dibb said.
“It would be incredible to win, it would mean so much to all of us.
“The amount of effort we’ve put in to being holistic athletes for this club has been at the forefront of our success and the Newcastle fans are the absolute best.
“They’ve really gotten around us, so it would mean the world to bring a premiership back to this really proud club.”