A-League: Knights $20m home to rival best in NRL

THE Newcastle Knights’ days as paupers are gone and so are the “excuses” for the NRL club not to perform.

That was the message from coach Nathan Brown and chief executive Phil Gardner at a formal announcement on Wednesday of a $20m centre of excellence to be built at Broadmeadow.

The state of the art facility, which is scheduled for completion in November 2019, will be home to the Knights and open to the broader community.

“I have been involved in rugby league for a lot of years now and facilities like we are going to have at the Knights are always talked about at all clubs,” Brown said. “They are a dream for a lot of clubs. The reality is that the Knights are going to have one in two years. As far as facilities go, it will be first class. It will be as good as the Brisbane Broncos. To be given this opportunity, there is certainly no excuses for players not to be able to prepare the best they can. The younger generations of the Knights will be blessed that they won’t have to go through what the Johnses and Harragons went through when facilities included portaloos. ”

The Knights facility, one of seven NSW rugby league training centres to receive a combined $50m in funding, will include administration offices, a high-performance gym and training area, medical rooms, sports science division, dormitory accommodation and four full-sized playing fields. 

Confirmation of the new home follows the biggest recruitment drive in the club’s history, netting NSW Origin halfback Mitchell Pearce, rising stars Tautau Moga, Kalyn Ponga, Herman Ese’ese and Connor Watson and seasoned first-graders Aidan Guerra, Chris Heighington, Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Jacob Lillyman.

The majority of the new arrivals are contracted until the end of 2020, joining Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Mitch Barnett and Nathan Ross. 

“There will be no more excuses for the Newcastle Knights,” Gardner said. “We will have the best coach, the best team, the best facilities and we are going to represent the best area in Australia. “This is a new beginning and we have to make sure we get it right and we will be doing everything in our power to make it right. ”

The Wests Group will contribute $10m towards the project, which was part of the ownership deal they struck with the NRL in July. 

The State Government has also committed $10m and, although the COE will be the home of the Knights, Gardner said the whole community would benefit.

“If you are an elite athlete in any sport you will be able to use this facility,” Gardner said. “We will have a sports science facility, a medical facility.

“There will be an opportunity for disadvantaged youth from throughout the region to come down and stay in our dormitories and be involved in our programs. This will be something for everyone in the community.”

Gardner said plans were afoot to to establish mini centres of excellence throughout Northern NSW in the future.

“We will do that as we go through this journey,” he said. “But this is the really important starting point, not just for the Knights, not just for the community but the stadium precinct itself. We have this great block of land here that we can do some wonderful things with. We can have a 10,000 seat arena, we can have tremendous sporting facilities, we can have a great entertainment precinct … this starts all of that.”