Mitch Barnett arrived in Newcastle last year as a mid-season transfer from Canberra.
A little over 12 months later he finishes his first full NRL campaign as the Knights’ best and fairest.
The 23-year-old was on Thursday night honoured with the Danny Buderus Medal at the club’s annual presentation.
The Wingham Tigers junior joined fellow forwards Tony Butterfield, Marc Glanville, Paul Marquet, Steve Simpson and Beau Scott on the honour roll when he accepted the prestigious award at Wests City in Newcastle.
Barnett, the 2015 NSW Cup player of the year, shifted from second-row to lock for Knights coach Nathan Brown in the pre-season and has made every post a winner since.
Starting in all-but two of his 22 appearances in 2017 Barnett averaged almost almost 35 tackles per game, finishing above Sharks skipper Paul Gallen in the competition’s top 20 with an overall total of 763.
This included an 80-minute effort that produced a match-high 52 tackles in extremely wet conditions away against Manly in round 14.
With the ball he broke the 100 all-run metres on eight occasions, including a personal best of 15 carries for 132m against Brisbane at home in round 19.
He also managed to score four tries in the space of four fixtures last month, opening his account with an impressive double in a win over the Warriors at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Coach Brown said Barnett, who has now played 33 NRL games after debuting for the Raiders two years ago, shone despite Newcastle collecting a third straight wooden spoon.
“There is no doubt Mitch is a player that other players want to play with,” Brown said.
“He is tough, he competes hard and he has plenty of skill, and winning the Danny Buderus Medal is a reward for his consistency.”
In other awards Knights prop Daniel Saifiti was voted players’ player by his teammates, rookie of the year went to injured five-eighth Brock Lamb, co-captain Jamie Buhrer picked up the coach’s prize, halfback Trent Hodkinson was named community player of the year and retired Rory Kostjasyn secured club person of the year without lacing a boot.
In the Knights’ lower grades, both in semi-final action this weekend, NSW Cup fullback Nick Meaney and under-20 skipper Zac Hosking were announced player of the year for their respective sides.
NSW Cup top try scorer and winger of the year Tom Hughes received players’ player in reserves while NYC fullback Mitch Cooper sealed the same gong for his squad.
And the coach’s awards went to NSW Cup second-rower Braden Robson and under-20 centre Heath Gibbs.
“We congratulate all of our award winners across our three grades and thank each and every player for their contribution to the club this season,” Knights chief executive officer Matt Gidley said.
“We now look forward to next season, where our young players will be better for another season in the NRL while we welcome a number of new recruits to the club.”