Newcastle prop Ben Cross has labeled Monday night’s clash with Parramatta at EnergyAustralia Stadium as do or die for the struggling Knights, warning that their finals hopes will almost certainly come to a crashing halt should they fall to their fourth consecutive loss.
The pressure is mounting on the Novocastrians following last week’s shock 32-24 loss to the Warriors which saw them drop to 14th on the NRL ladder – six points behind eighth-placed Sydney Roosters.
And while this week’s opponents, Parramatta, showed last year that it’s never over until the fat lady sings, Cross said Newcastle could kiss their season goodbye if they lost to the Eels on home soil.
“You’d have to dare say that [it is do or die],” Cross told NRL.com. “We really need to fix our home-ground record.
“One out of five – that’s pretty terrible and three of those losses have been by two, four and six points.
“That’s pretty bad at home – you should be winning those close games at home.
“We’ve let a few of those previous reputations slide that we’ve built up over the years.”
Newcastle coach Rick Stone was left lamenting the surprisingly poor Sunday afternoon crowd that turned up to watch the struggling Knights last weekend, who have now dropped consecutive games against Wests Tigers, Penrith and the Warriors.
But Cross said the players hadn’t given up hope yet.
“I don’t think we’re too far off,” he said. “We’ve been scoring enough points to win games, it’s just a matter of stopping points being scored against us.
“We showed earlier in the season that we could beat good sides with wins over the Bulldogs and Melbourne as well, so we know we can do it.
“We’re not out of the top eight race yet.”
Although the Eels showed ominous form in their last-start win over the Storm, Cross said beating last year’s grand finalists could prove the spark to fire up Newcastle’s season.
“It would be a big confidence-boost for us to beat a team like that,” he said.
“I think they’re starting to find their form again and some of that free-flowing footy that got them to the grand final last year.
“They’re well structured but they know that when they play relaxed, attacking football they tend to go pretty well.
“They love to throw the ball around and they’ve got a good, strong pack – they’ve got a little bit of everything really so if we can stop them it could be a spring-board into the rest of the season and raise everyone’s confidence.”
Much like the Knights, Cross is hoping to find out what his own future holds in the coming weeks.
Off contract at the end of the year, the hulking front-rower has been stuck in negotiations with the club over the past month and although he is hoping to stay, he told NRL.com that his final decision will inevitably come down to money, with a number of clubs circling.
“I’m probably looking at this being my last contract so I want to make sure it’s what I want and where I want,” he said. “I want to dictate the terms rather than have the terms dictated to me.
“We’re in the process at the moment of going through all of those nitty-gritty little things and hopefully it will be sorted in the next few weeks.”
Asked if he was confident of staying at the Knights, Cross said: “Hopefully.
“Talks have been going okay – we’re just weighing up a few different options.
“There has been a little bit of interest from other clubs and there was some interest last year too when I was injured.
“We’re just going out there and putting a few feelers out, having a bit of a look overseas too which is something I’ve always wanted to do.
“It’s been a long process but as I said, I’m hopeful of having something sorted in the next two weeks.”