The Newcastle Knights have been petering around the edges of the NRL finals for a little while now without doing too much damage.
It all looks set to change after one game in 2022.
In an offseason that saw the Knights lose star player Mitchell Pearce, the signings of Dane Gagai and Adam Clune look to have definitely bolstered up the squad.
The rise of Kalyn Ponga has also been exciting to watch.
He was at it again in Round 1 combining brilliantly with Gagi, Clune and the likes of Jake Clifford and Bradman Best.
Ponga’s 2021 season was interrupted by a nagging groin injury, which he seems to have shaken off heading into 2022.
If he can show the form on a consistent basis throughout the majority and keep himself on the park, there is no ceiling to what the Queensland State of Origin fullback can achieve for his team.
But what there is to really like about this Knights team is how they actually played as a unit in the 20-6 thumping of Sydney.
Collectively, the pass completion rate of 76%, 12 offloads and seven linebreaks, showed the NRL world how much this team has come of age.
It was not just one player who led the charge.
Metres gained with ball in hand was spread throughout the team, highlighting the Knights ability to get everyone involved.
The Knights made their tackles stick and defended like a genuine premiership-contending team.
There is a lot to like about what Adam O’Brien has implemented in the offseason and into this new year.
O’Brien has led the Knights to back-to-back finals for the first time since 2003.
The tutelage of Andrew Johns cannot be understated either.
The Knights legend returned to the club at the end of 2021 season in a coaching capacity after leaving his role at Parramatta.
Combining with O’Brien might just be the edge the Knights need and it looks to have paid early dividends.
Offensively, the Knights looks a huge threat with Gagai bringing in a ton of experience through the central role, while Enari Tuala looks to have taken another step in his progression as a bonafide try-scoring machine.
Defensively, they look very assured and seem to gel well together as a unit.
By the end of the finals series, this Newcastle team could very well become the Knights in shining armour.