Knights can’t afford to target Thurston & Bowen
Newcastle centre Anthony Quinn says it is useless trying to pinpoint one area in which North Queensland are dangerous and concentrate on trying to stop that, because they are dangerous "everywhere".
The Knights, coming off a big loss to Manly away that followed a big win over Wests Tigers at home in the first round, will host the Cowboys at Hunter Stadium on Monday night.
North Queensland's form line is similar – a win to start the season, followed by a loss – but they have faced last year's two grand finalists. The Cowboys beat Canterbury in a Bulldogs home match the club took to Gosford, but then lost at home to Melbourne.
"Their forward pack is as good as anyone's in the comp," Quinn said. "And they have got strike weapons like Johnathan Thurston, and Matty Bowen at the back. And their outside backs are no slouches either. Brent Tate has come off a great year and is performing well.
"All over the park they are a threat, so it's going to be up to each individual player in our side to put his stamp on the game in a bid to contain them."
It wasn't a shock that premiers Melbourne were able to go to Townsville and beat North Queensland at 1300SMILES Stadium, but the ease of the win – the Storm ran away in the second half and were up 32-10 at the end – was surprising.
Quinn, a former Melbourne player, said Newcastle would probably try to implement some of what Melbourne did successfully against the Cowboys into their own approach.
"We will be taking a few things from what they did in that match, and bringing it into our game plan," he said. "And, hopefully, we'll execute it against the Cowboys. But, in the end, it comes down to us as individual players, being able to fulfil our roles within the team."
The Knights were extremely disappointing in their 32-10 loss to the Sea Eagles. Quinn said the result was a real shock to the system, because the preparation had been good.
"There was no indication during the week that things weren't right," he said. "Wayne (Bennett, the Newcastle coach) was in shock, too, considering our strong lead-up to the game."
Having played the majority of his career on the wing Quinn has provided a valuable link in the Knights’ centres in 2013; he covered for Timana Tahu on the left side of the field for the opening two rounds but now, with Tahu back, he finds himself on the right edge covering for Dane Gagai who was injured in their loss to the Sea Eagles.
Quinn’s teammate, bench forward Robbie Rochow, similarly found the Knights’ dramatic downturn in form from the first round to the second hard to explain.
"Our win over the Tigers was a really good performance that came off the back of getting the fundamentals right," Rochow said. "We played the Tigers through the middle, and because we got on top there that gave us space and time with the football.
"But we didn't do that against Manly. We didn't play with the same focus. Our line speed in defence wasn't where it should be, and if you don't get your line speed right the opposition can get a bit of a roll-on.
"Defence is all about attitude. At the end of the day, you don't get to play in the NRL without being able to defend, but we just didn't have the right attitude in defence against Manly.
"It's always hard to put your finger on why, and that's the disappointing thing. Sometimes it happens, and you can't explain it. We didn't compete in a lot of areas in which we should have competed in that game."
Rochow said Bennett had taken the attitude that at this stage of the season there was no point in making drastic changes to the team based on one poor performance.
"We went through it all and moved on," he said. "We've done a lot of things right this year, in our pre-season preparation and then in the first round. We don't want to dwell on what happened against Manly, because that would just dent our confidence.
"Wayne has seen everything in the game. He doesn't go crazy when something goes wrong, just the same as he doesn't get carried away with the good days. The good thing is that what went wrong for us against Manly is not too difficult to fix.
"There's no reason we can't find form again when we play the Cowboys. We'll be well prepared, and after that we've just got to go out there and do our jobs."