Eighteen months after declaring Newcastle were set for a long stint in the premiership wilderness and igniting a war of words with Nathan Brown, Paul Gallen has paid tribute to the rejuvenated Knights.
After his side's NRL season-opening victory over the Sharks, Brown said he hoped the Cronulla skipper had changed his tune about the Hunter outfit.
When Mitchell Pearce declined an offer from Cronulla to instead join the Knights, it prompted Gallen to predict Pearce's representative career was over and that it would take two to three years for Newcastle to return to the top eight.
Brown subsequently defended his side in the media.
Just a season later and the Knights are shaping as a genuine top-eight force if Friday night's 14-8 win against the Sharks is anything to go by.
"It's a massively different side ... but let's be honest, they won three wooden spoons in a row for a reason.
"They've recruited enormously well with guys like Kalyn Ponga and David Klemmer," Gallen said.
"They're not my concern but you've got to give them credit for the way they played tonight. They hung in there, they completed well, they built pressure on us."
Gallen praised his former NSW teammate David Klemmer, who was inspirational on his debut for the Knights.
"That's pretty standard for him," Gallen said.
"He's one of the best front-rowers in the game. He's made a huge difference to their team and we knew that.
"Nothing came at us that we didn't know was coming. He does that week in and week out - he's a big plus for their team."
Gallen said the Knights strangled his team out of the game, pointing to the fact they completed at 78 per cent compared to the Sharks' 63 per cent.
Ex-Sharks winger Edrick Lee, playing his first game against his former side, was the hero for Newcastle, pulling off three try-saving tackles and running 85 metres for the game-winning intercept try.