After two seasons back in the top-four picture, Chris Hansen and the Knights – with a relatively stable squad and a couple of handy acquisitions from the union ranks – are aiming to take the next step this year.

Coach: Chris Hansen and Sam Brown

Last season: 4th and beaten preliminary finalists (won 9, lost 6, drew 1)

Pre-season: “The off-season and pre-season’s not been too bad. Same as last year, the Nines disrupts the early preparation, but once that was all over we could get into the serious part of it,” Hansen says. “I used (the Challenge Cup) as a trial – just the way it went with a lot of guys pulling out, it was a bit mucked up, so we didn’t see it as a competition to win, we saw it as games to trial a few guys in a see how the new guys went. I wasn’t too concerned with wins and losses.”

Key gains: Blake Thompson (rugby), Josh Mackie (rugby)

Key losses: Andy Rattray, Jermahl Carroll (Northern)

2016 squad: “It’s a slight rebuilding phase, we’ve lost three or four boys from last year. We’ve got a couple of rugby guys and a few younger guys coming back from not playing any sport for the last four to five years that have decided they want to get back into it. So they’ve decided to give league a go and come to the Knights to make that dream come true.

“Last year I had a good nucleus of senior guys and they’re back this year. We’ve got Shane Tamatea, he’s always a leader at the club on and off the field, Rob (Kiwara-) Nepia and Jason Garland, both experienced players and they’re leading the way forward for these younger guys, teaching them a lot.”

Goals: “That’s always the ultimate goal, to make that grand final. I talked to the boys last night (and said) pre-season’s over, when into the season now. Basically every week, take it as it comes and don’t look too far ahead.

Round 1: v Halswell @ Crosbie Park 1, Saturday 2:30pm – “That first game we’re aiming for the two points, but we’re looking for a good game structure for the full 80 minutes. Obviously Halswell are a little bit unknown, a lot of young guys over there too. So they’re a bit of a worry, but we’re never going to take anyone too lightly. I think this year everyone’s going to be stronger than they were last year, so we’ll have to raise our game to be in contention at the end of the year.”

Riccarton Knights
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