NEWCASTLE Knights officials expect to kick off the coming season with every enclosed corporate box sold out at McDonald Jones Stadium, for the first time in their history.
In a remarkable show of loyalty from the Novocastrian faithful, the Knights have managed to increase their corporate support and potentially their number of memberships, despite collecting their third consecutive wooden spoon last season.
“We have either sold all the enclosed corporate boxes, or have received expressions of interest for them,” Knights chief executive Phil Gardner said.
“I have a few contracts still to be signed, but it looks like at this stage, for the first time since the stadium was upgraded, we’ll have every one of the enclosed corporate boxes sold. There are still some of the open-air boxes available.
“From that perspective, the support of the community has been humbling.”
According to the NRL’s official website on Thursday, Newcastle had enlisted 12,601 members for 2018, but Gardner was confident that the number would be closer to 15,000 by the time Newcastle host Manly in the season-opener on March 9.
Last season they had 13,370 members.
The club-record membership tally was 18,000 in 2012, the first year of the much-hyped Nathan Tinkler-Wayne Bennett era.
“Our expectation is 15,000, to start the season,” Gardner said. “So we’ll need to be winning games to get up to the club record, which is 18,000. We think if we perform well in our early games, 18,000 is certainly possible.”
Newcastle’s 26-22 win against premiers Melbourne in a trial match on Wednesday should only heighten the sense of expectation surrounding a new-look team featuring drawcards like Mitchell Pearce, Kalyn Ponga and Connor Watson.
“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Gardner said. “And also if we can beat Manly when we play them at home in round one. That’ll be a great way to start the season.”
Gardner said the 20,535-strong crowd that attended Newcastle’s last home game of 2017, even though they were virtually guaranteed to finish last, was a reminder of how staunch the club’s fans are.
“I don’t think there is any doubt we’re the only club that could have done that,” Gardner said.