Guinness Premiershp Preview: can Newcastle survive?

Newcastle is another side that has seen plenty of changes over the summer, and their ‘Players Out’ list is longer than most. Premiership pundit Jon Hobbs explains why he thinks the Falcons may be in for a tough season.

Jimmy Gopperth

Players in:
Charlie Amesbury (Harlequins)
Tom Biggs (Leeds Carnegie)
James Hudson (London Irish)
Lawrence Ovens (Bath)
Rob Vickerman (Leeds Carnegie)
Alex Walker (Saracens)
Kieran Brookes (Fylde)
Jimmy Gopperth (Auckland Blues)
Filipo Levi (Ospreys)
Grant Shiells (Kelso)
Michael Tait (Kelso)
Gcobani Bobo (Stormers)
Chris Mickelwood (Brive)
Josh Afu (Doncaster)
Uche Oduoza (Suntory Sungoliath)

Players out:
Ross Batty (Rotherham)
Andy Buist (Harlequins)
Rory Clegg (Harlequins)
Tom Dillion (Northampton Saints)
Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints)
Eni Gesinde (Leicester Tigers)
James Grindall (Leicester Tigers)
Andy Long (Toulon)
Tom May (Toulon)
Jamie Noon (Brive)
Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
Andy Perry (London Irish)
Ollie Phillips (Stade Francais)
John Rudd (Hong Kong)
Joe Shaw (Hong Kong)
Sean Tomes (Exeter Chiefs)
Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon)
Dave Wilson (Bath)
Joe McDonnell (El Salvador)
Ross Beattie (Edinburgh)
Steve Jones (Edinburgh)
Ross Samson (Edinburgh)
Andrew Fenby (Scarlets)
Russell Winter (Retired)

What a ridiculous couple of lists those are! Newcastle may not have had the best of seasons last year, and their transfer hand may have been forced by certain members of their squad being lured by bigger pay packets but there seems a sense of panic about their ins and outs over the off season.

Most squads have a clearing out at the end of a season, and some of the Falcons’ losses won’t be too sorely missed. However the ones that will be include Phil Dowson, Tom May, Jamie Noon, Ollie Phillips, Jonny Wilkinson and Dave Wilson. The commendable form that Newcastle showed towards the end of last season that almost saw them into a play-off place was largely down to Dowson, May and Phillips so all that momentum will be lost and this squad will have to start again.

Jimmy Gopperth is a catch, Uche Oduoza has raw talent, and Gcobani Bobo has some international experience but they are the only signings that stand out. Put those three names together with Carl Hayman and Micky Young and you have five players who wouldn’t look out of place in any other premiership squad. But that’s your lot. The dearth of other talent is glaring and I would expect Newcastle to be fighting with Worcester and Leeds to stay clear of relegation.

As such, if they are able to pull off a win against Leeds Carnegie on the opening weekend of the season they will do wonders for their chances of survival. However I expect Leeds to win that one at home and I expect Newcastle to go down.

Prediction: 12th

19 thoughts on “Guinness Premiershp Preview: can Newcastle survive?

  1. As author of this Article did you even watch Newcastle play last season? It seems to me that your assertions are based on hearsay and statistics from seasons gone by.
    Your article is one of the worst in rugby terms because it contains very few facts apart from a bias that you have against Newcastle, it seems.

    Stuart Barnes(England international) who I believe knows the game better than the author thinks that Newcastle will be in 8th position at the end of the season.

    And here are the reasons I believe you are very wrong, misguided and biased;

    1)Wilkinson is(was) a talisman at Newcastle and a Legend never to be forgotten, but he has not been playing consistently for the first team for years now. and in a season when he didnt play much Newcastle nearly riched the play-offs. He will be missed but there is a new focus at the club- a focus on a forward orientated game and Gopperth will give the team something different.

    As evidence Newcastle had one of the strongest scrums last season, destroying the Northampton, Sale(in their own backyard with 7 fowards at one point), Gloucester, Leicester scrums etc etc. Did you watch those games? Based on that you must realise that over-reliance on Wilkinson had long gone.

    2) You mentioned Ollie Phillips, have you ever watched him play for Newcastle? Yes good 7’s player but he had been at the club long enough to cement his place as the number one winger. Did he? No, I can tell you that not many people( at Newcastle) think he’s a big loss. Danny Williams coming from League in one season was far better last season and he would’ve been a big loss had he left.

    3)David Wilson a very good prop but Carl Hayman the worlds’ best tight-head is there and thats why dave had to leave but even he(Wilson) has been injury prone for a while. Yes he might be a loss but we have cover when Hayman leaves.

    There is good experience and a BIG aggresive very good Prop in the making in the form of Kieran Brookes to take over long term. Wilson only played a hand full of games on the loose-head mostly when Jon Golding came off.

    4)You also mention Noon who has been a good servant at the Club but Vickerman/Bobo does exactly what Noon was doing-Hard tackling but these guys also have a bit of pace about them compared to Noon. So that’s like for like in my eyes and if you look at it that way you’ll notice it’s not a loss as such.

    5) Dowson and Parling good players on their day but perhaps may have reached their full potential without really being consistently outstanding. remember Dowson has been touted as a future England international for years.

    6) May and Dowson and obviously Noon I would’ve preferred to have stayed but they saved the club well and it would be unfair to stand in the way of them moving on.
    Finally I would also like to remind you that there are other very good players at Newcastle you omitted to remember and most of whom contributed to the good finish last season.

    Tuipolutu for one was a stand out performer at inside centre and as good as any in his position(and only came in November so played more than most in GP). young Alex Tait did well for his age and will surely improve this season barring injury, Balding was one of the stand-out 8’s in the GP, very aggressive and made a lot of gains(see statistics on GP website) He brought an aggressive edge to the forwards. Danny Williams(on par with best try for game ratio with top try scorer in GP).Jon Golding without doubt the most improved loose-head in premiership and mentioned for possible English honours on Sky last season. Tim Swinson, very aggressive and direct and on stand-by wild card for Lions tour 2009 .Should at least be in England saxons team(far better than Deacon no doubt) and would be if he was at one of the favoured teams! Sorenson, another lock who was up there with the best of them last season. And now there is also James Hudson one of the best line-out operators in the GP. I think that second row is as good as any in the GP.

    All in all if you look at the minute details only about 9 of the 24 players that have left would be considered good first team players and most of them saw little GP rugby anyway. I would suggest the author of this article does some homework before attempting another article. You just cant have Ballast in a car because its makes it stable, remember it also slows you down!

    People in the know even with a nearly new team , bias aside, believe this will be the season Newcastle will NOT be fighting relegation for a change and I hope you’ll be decent to eat Humble pie and do another article in May 2010 apologising for this mis-informed view!

  2. It’s only fair that i do respond!

    I agree with some of what you are saying: Wilkinson wasn’t the reason behind Newcastle’s end of season form, Carl Hayman is a great prop and some of the players out won’t be too sorely missed. However i think the most pertinent point you make is that 9 out of the 24 players that have left are good 1st team players! How many other squads have lost 9 of their first team squad? (I’ll give you Gloucester but they essentially “fired” those players rather than them leaving to chase the cash).

    Newcastle’s run at the end of the season was impressive but i don’t think they’ve replaced like for like. Even the good signings i have doubts about: Gopperth hasn’t consistently shone for the Blues and isn’t arriving until after the first couple of months of the season have passed; Bobo’s defence has never impressed me; Hudson failed to cement a 1st team place at Bath or Irish and of the others no-one looks to me like they will set the premiership alight.

    I think it will be close between Newcastle, Leeds and Worcester and a lot will depend on injuries to key players but i stick by my prediction. If i am imcorrect and Newcastle have a comfortable season i’ll bring out my best spoon and get ready for a large portion of humble pie.

    I’d be interested to hear the opinions of other neutral fans as to how Newcastle will fare – i might be in a distinct minority!

  3. yes you’re in the minority and like I said you should do you homework because Gopperth has been here now for over two months if not mistaken. I think that says it all sorry.

  4. where did you get most of the statistics where our old players have gone anyway? There was me thinking Ross Beattie is now in France but your source says Edinburgh. This is just so wrong you know. sorry dont want to rub it in!

  5. “Beattie is at Edinburgh, Andy Long is at Toulon, Buist at Quins, Gesinde at Tigers and Rudd in Hong Kong.”

    All incorrect. Beattie is at Nice, Long is at Rotherham, Buist in unattached, Gesinde is in Honk Kong and Rudd is on trial at Bradford Bulls.

  6. I think the call that being discredited AKA no credibility, like the whole original article. need to employ a spin doctor my friend

  7. We might eventually get the list correct – Andy Long has joined Joe McDonnell at Cetransa El salvador…………..

  8. at this time of year when the premiership previews come out, there is always one set of fans that is aggrieved by every preview. most of the time this year it has been leeds fans, but i’ve seen worcester fans upset by one or two articles and now the newcastle boys have had their cage rattled.

    it’s just someone’s opinion. it’s not fact, but for what its worth, i think newcastle might go down as well.

    as for the ins and outs, you see the same errors everywhere. they get copied and pasted all over the place, but where they go isn’t really important its the fact they have gone that falcons fans should be worried about.

    lots of protesting. i think they are worried and in denial.

  9. I think most Falcons fans are used to relegation predictions, and have no real issue with them.

    Statements quoting incorrect ‘facts’ are often corrected, though.

    Interestingly, Eddie Butler predicts a top 4 finish for Falcons…..

  10. Not worried and not in denial.

    No problem with opinions, but when its clearly based on incorrect facts, that is worth pointing out.

    Didn’t ever belief we’d finish 4th (per Grauniad I believe), equally don’t believe we’ll be 12th. I did hope for 6th place but after last Friday (yes, I was there) I’m not as confident but that depends on how quickly they gel.

    As for changes from last season, looking at the REGULAR players, I’m generally happy we’ve improved:

    15 Alex Tait
    14 Danny Williams
    13 Jamie Noon – Gcobani Bobo / Rob Vickerman – similar
    12 Tane Tuipoluto
    11 John Rudd – Tom Biggs – +++
    10 Tom May – Jimmy Gopperth – fantastic servant as Tom was and a Falcon through and through, he was a makeshift No10
    9 Mick Young
    8 Adam Balding
    7 Brent Wilson
    6 Phil Dowson – Pete Browne / Ed Williamson – perhaps better suited to mauling game but certainly arguable
    5 Mark Sorenson
    4 Tim Swinson / James Hudson
    3 Carl Hayman
    2 Rob Vickers
    1 Jon Goulding

    Accept that the bench could be weaker, but name many teams where thats not the case. All depends on luck with injuries.

    Just cos we’re not a fashionable team, people forget to engage their brain before commenting – in my humble opinion that starting XV is stronger than the REGULAR starting XV last year.

    But, there again, we’ll see as the season goes on……. fact is right or wrong, opinion gives people something to talk about

  11. isn’t Rob Vickerman going to be on the sevens circuit for most of the year?

    good that you’ve corrected the mistakes, but no need to get quite so angry. everyone makes them.

    i think the prem is getting more competitive every year and it will be interesting to see which team does go down.

    here’s to an exciting year anyway.

  12. I doubt we’ll let Vickerman go on 7’s. Looked good against Edinburgh.

    Also worth bearing in mind the influence of Alan Tait as coach. Has brought a much needed harder edge to the squad.

    Looking forward to the season and (hopefully!) proving a few people wrong.

  13. Unfortunately for Falcon fans, the “correct” facts are that, for many years now, Newcastle have struggled in the Premiership, and the loss of such key individuals, who have served the club well, is likely to have a very dramatic effect on their performance this season, and I personally think that Newcastle will yet again be fighting to avoid relegation. Please don’t get me wrong, I actually think Newcastle are a good team, however they are constantly struggling to compete with the bigger clubs with any consistency. Good luck to all teams, and here’s hoping for a season with a little less controversy.

    Personal Predictions for end of season table

    1. Leicester
    2. Irish
    3. Harlequins
    4. Bath
    5. Northampton
    6. Sale
    7. Wasps
    8. Gloucester
    9. Newcastle
    10. Saracens
    11. Leeds
    12. Worcester

  14. ‘Facts’ aside on the destination of the leaving players, teams who have such a disruption to their squad rarely perform for some time. By the time the squad gels and starts to put in some decent performances, the season could be half over and Newcastle already slugging out in the bottom quarter of the table. The same is likely to happen for Sarries.

    ProppingUpTheTable, I didn’t see the game last week but it’s interesting to see your observation that they didn’t gel. Whether the outgoing players have been swapped ‘like-for-like’ or not, the loss of such integral personalities as May and Noon (to name just two), both in the playing sense and their influence on and off the field, will have a massive impact on the team’s performance. When it comes down to the last 5 mins and a point or two between teams, it’s the team ethos, the bond between players that will bring a victory. Newcastle got it right in the latter half of last season…finally (take the last destructive scrum against Sale to score against the feed as case in point). However, with the amount of changes to the squad and the nature of the individuals leaving, it’s going to be difficult for them to compete for anything over mid-table, and is more likely that unless they lift themselves out of a predicted bad start to the season, they will be once again slugging it out against the likes of Sarries, Worcester and Leeds.

  15. Could well be right there Justin.

    I genuinely believe we have a better playing squad than last year but as you say the time it takes to gel will be of vital importance.

    Last Friday’s game only saw 3 new faces in the starting line-up (Bobo, Biggs and Hudson) so not sure whether gelling was the issue or just lack of match sharpness.

  16. Good points Justin, atleast some people know about the game of Rugby but I still maintain that we(Newcastle) will do well this season, provided we gel from the off and get lucky with injuries. outside of Leicester most teams have thin squads which obviously bodes well from a competition point of view.
    I Also saw the Edinburgh game but I think it would be blinkered to base how the team is going to perform based on that. That was only one of two friendly games so far and much as it was disjointed it was a victory in any case.

    Sale have been struggling in their freindly games but nobody is saying they will be fighting relegation. I also honestly believe that Saracens will do better than the predictions I’ve seen so far.

  17. The clear out this summer was much needed. Finacially we were a mess last season, even the hog roast sandwiches reduced in quality, along with the rugby, as cut backs abounded around Kingston Park. Before we go any further dont get me started on the useless bar staff who must be now working for free. Finacially the squad cull was necessary.

    The majority of players who have gone will not be missed. After all Wilko (legend that he is) and Batty were crocked, while Winter’s battered body really couldn’t continue. The likes of Gesinde never even figured on the bench. In addition, we really did have to stop simply keeping Steve Jones on the books out of our charitable nature (unlucky Edinburgh you have inherited a genuine plank).

    On the down side it’s sad to see Tom May, Geoff Parling, Jamie Noon and Phil Dowson leave. There’s no doubt that their performances were instrumental in turning us into one of the form sides in the division.

    If we could have held onto those boys (as with Flood and Tait beforehand) we would have something verging on a squad talented enough and strong enough to secure a top 4 finish.

    The start of last season was quite frankly a disaster. However, the coaching staff turned it around. They’ve created a new mentality at Newcastle, we are no longer just a team of sparkling backs with a lot of fat forwards for protection. The team has developed a new hard edge. We’ve learnt how to grind results out. What’s more our forwards can now actually run without having minor heart attacks every couple of minutes.

    I cant help but be excited about the new season and I fully expect us to continue where we left off last season. Our pack is looking bigger and stronger for the addition of Levi and Hudson. This can only provide an excellent platform for our exciting young backs Young, Tait, Williams and co to thrive off.

    The new additions to the squad bring a mixture of experience and raw talent.

    I fully expect us to finish 5th or 6th and put a lot of our southern neighbours noses out of joint. We might even nick a cheeky Europan Challenge Cup on the way.

    We are unfashionable and we dont have the money of the southern clubs ,but we do have a squad which, although small, looks athletic, powerful and packed full of tries. Good luck eveyone, because you are going to need it when our boys turn up at your place.

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