Mayor orders early mark for city's workers ahead of NRL kick-off
By Matt Bungard9 March 2018 — 2:29pm
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Newcastle fans are known for being arguably the most passionate in the NRL, and the lord mayor of the city is no exception.
With the Knights handed a 6pm home kick-off to start the season, Nuatali Nelmes took to the club's Twitter account to give a brief address, ordering employers to send their workers home early to ensure a packed Hunter Stadium.
Channelling the immortal words of Bob Hawke after Australia's 1983 America's Cup win, she declared that "Any boss in Newcastle that doesn't give their employee the afternoon off, is un-Australian and not a true Novocastrian - go Knights!"
There is renewed hope in the Steel City this year, with many experts tipping the Knights to reach the finals for the first time since 2013. The club has endured a brutal run since then, claiming the wooden spoon in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Despite this, they remain among the best-supported teams in the league, finishing in the top half of teams in terms of average attendances in each of those years - perhaps most impressively, in 2016 they averaged a home crowd of only 121 people fewer than the grand final winners Cronulla, despite only winning a single game.
There is renewed hope for the Knights this year with a massive roster turnover, led by the marquee signing of halfback Mitchell Pearce.
The opening game of the year will see them welcome the Manly Sea Eagles, who they famously defeated in the 1997 grand final to lift the trophy for the very first time in the club's history.
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Matt Bungard is a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald.
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