Knights can deal with pressure
THE weight of expectation will be large at the Newcastle Knights next year but Owen Craigie believes his former NRL club will be well placed to deal with the added pressure.
Craigie, who was a member of the Knights' 1997 premiership-winning side, visited Goonellabah Public School this week.
He is employed by Mission Australia to help give advice to indigenous people affected by gambling and he appeared at the school to endorse the PaCE program.
PaCE is community-driven and uses rugby league to engage indigenous school students and their parents to improve education outcomes.
Despite many NRL fans expecting the Knights to win a third premiership next year, Craigie believes the expectation will not hamper their title aspirations.
"Everyone will expect them to go well but the Knights are a very professional club and they've recruited well," he said.
"Their new coach Wayne Bennett demands success and he's achieved that at the Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons.
"He'll make them a competitive side, week in, week out and he won't get carried away."
Five-eighth Craigie burst on to the first-grade rugby league scene as a fresh-faced 17-year-old before helping his team win the grand final against Manly two years later.
In his mid-20s, he moved to South Sydney and played 54 games for the red and green.
Craigie said Souths would face an uphill battle replacing gifted halfback Chris Sandow, who has signed for the Parramatta Eels.
"Any club that loses a great halfback needs to rebuild," he said.
"But from what I hear they have a good young kid coming through (Adam Reynolds) and they have good wraps on him."
Craigie is excited at what New Zealand Warriors halfback James Maloney could bring to Souths if his former club signs the exciting young prospect for 2013.
"That would be huge for the club and the supporters," he said.
"Maloney's ball-playing and organisational skills are top class."
Craigie, who played 153 games in the NRL, will captain-coach Walls-end Maryland Tigers in the Newcastle competition next year.
He played for Central Charlestown Butcher Boys last season, also in Newcastle, after a five-year break from the game.
"I'll also help develop players at the club from the Under-6s up to first grade," he said.
"I love helping develop young players and it's great to be back playing footy."