The 2018 season has been a memorable one for the Riccarton Knights – but not necessarily for the right reasons.

The Knights had a promising pre-season, winning the Rolleston Nines tournament and making the quarter-finals of the Crosbie Nines competition the club hosts. However, season-ending injuries to key players took a huge toll on their Massetti Cup campaign.

An unprecedented injury list constantly hindered the Knights and they finished bottom of the table with just two wins. Coach Sam Brown lamented that with so many injuries early on in the season, mounting a challenge for a top-four spot was almost impossible.

“We lost three key players by I think game three and then every week we seemed to have another injury, whether it was one game or a missing a number of games,” Brown said.

Brown had high hopes for the 2018 season, with training starting in January. Players who were blooded in 2017 were ready to take on more responsibility and step up in the competition, while the standout performances of Blake Thompson and Reuben Te Amo for the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls at the end of last season were also cause for optimism.

“We played off in the Gore Cup final last year, and with the players we have on paper, the expectations was a top-four finish (in 2018),” Brown explained.

However, those hopes of finals glory were cut short, and there were weeks when fielding a strong team was a struggle.

Thompson played just four games, while promising teenage halfback Zac Riley’s season was cut short by a broken leg only a few weeks into the premiership.

“Last year we used I think 28 players for the whole season; this year we used about 30 players by the end of round one.

“We were never able to field the same team two weeks in a row…. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

On a positive note, Te Amo and Jope Tagicakibau were selected in the Rockcote Canterbury Bulls’ 2018 squad.

Brown accepted that this season the Knights were extremely unlucky, and it’s disappointing the Knights wasn’t as successful as he had hoped.

But a late-season upswing has provided a bit of momentum heading into the Gore Cup. Riccarton ended a 10-match losing streak with a victory over Papanui in Round 12, before rounding out the Massetti Cup with narrow losses to Celebration and Aranui.

The Knights will play the Tigers, who have had their own injury troubles, this Saturday in the first round of the Gore Cup, where they will look to replicate Halswell’s feat in taking out the trophy after finishing the regular season in last place.

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