Kurt GidleyKNIGHTS skipper Kurt Gidley has vowed to leave Newcastle’s fans with a glimmer of hope after perhaps the bleakest season in the club’s history.
With two home games left, against Parramatta and St George Illawarra, the Knights are no chance of making the finals and are merely playing for pride.
On Saturday night they racked up another unwanted milestone, when they were hammered 48-6 by Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium.
It was their heaviest defeat in almost three seasons under the coaching of Wayne Bennett, surpassing the 50-10 thrashing from South Sydney in their previous away game, in Cairns on August 3.
But if Newcastle’s form on the road has been lacklustre, they have at least won their past three games on home turf against top-eight contenders the Roosters, Melbourne and the Warriors.
‘‘We had a rough start at home for a fair chunk of the year but I’d like to think we’ve done our fans proud at home over the past month or so,’’ Gidley said after Saturday’s defeat. ‘‘I’d like to see us send them away after these last couple of games proud of their team and looking forward to next year.’’
Gidley said the belated withdrawal of Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden, who were ruled out on Friday night after accepting ASADA suspensions for taking banned substances three years earlier, was ‘‘just another chapter in a tough year’’.
Snowden and Smith joined Jarrod Mullen (cork), Darius Boyd (personal reasons), James McManus (foot) and Akuila Uate (knee) on the sidelines, leaving Newcastle’s team depleted by the absence of six regular starters.
‘‘But when someone’s ruled out through injury or suspension or whatever it might be, you’ve just got to move on as quickly as you can and try and get your head right for the game,’’ Gidley said.
‘‘And I thought we did that.’’
Gidley felt Newcastle’s makeshift team deserved credit for competing until the floodgates burst open in the final 20 minutes.
‘‘It wasn’t about effort tonight,’’ Gidley said. ‘‘It was about execution. Especially our last plays.’’
Bennett denied that his players lacked a winning mentality or desire because of their position on the ladder. ‘‘I think they’re bigger than that and better than that,’’ Bennett said.
Saturday’s result provided a measure of solace for Bennett’s opposite number, Anthony Griffin, who received the tap on the shoulder recently when the Broncos announced the master coach would be rejoining them on a three-year deal starting in 2015. But if Bennett is still regarded as an icon north of the border for the six premierships he helped the club win between 1988 and 2008, Griffin has enjoyed bragging rights in his head-to-head showdowns with the game’s most successful tactician.
In eight clashes against Brisbane and Newcastle teams coached by Bennett, Griffin has racked up six wins and a draw.
Bennett’s only success was a 26-18 victory in the corresponding match last season.
In their two games this season, the score reads Griffin 80, Bennett 12.