KNIGHTS chief executive Phil Gardner believes the NRL club’s players will gain inspiration from the early-season success of their round-ball counterparts, the Newcastle Jets.
Like the Knights, the Jets are the incumbent wooden spooners, but they have been the A-League’s biggest improvers this season, climbing to second on the ladder after six wins and two draws from their first 10 games.
Newcastle are also second in the W-League and can potentially move into the outright lead if they beat Perth at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
The Jets have not featured in the A-League play-offs for seven seasons, and not in the W-League finals since the inaugural campaign, 2008-09.
The Knights last qualified for the NRL post-season in 2013.
Gardner applauded the revival of the city’s soccer teams, saying they had “absolutely” set an example the Knights should be striving to emulate in 2018.
“That’s the great thing about sport, that you can get a change in culture, a few changes in the roster, the ball bounces your way, and suddenly the world’s your oyster,” Gardner told the Newcastle Herald. “We’re really proud of what the Jets are doing.
“It’s fantastic the way they’re representing the city, and certainly it gives us a blueprint of what we can do.
“I think when our players see the Jets enjoying success, and the town getting behind them, they also want to be successful.”
While at various times in the past there has been an uneasy relationship between Newcastle’s footballing flagships, in particular when the Jets used to sub-lease the stadium from the Knights, Gardner denied any competitive rivalry still existed.
“From Wests’ point of view, our 130,000 members are quite often both Knights supporters and Jets supporters,” Gardner said.
“So whatever is good for the city is good for Wests. The more successful the Jets are, the better, as far as I’m concerned. The more people who attend games at the stadium, the more pressure we can put on the government to upgrade the facilties at the precinct.
“If the Jets are successful, that just adds to the positive energy in the city.”
Gardner said if Newcastle’s two soccer teams could both reach the play-offs, it would be “a great lead-in to our season”.
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