Bennett demands commitment from Knights
The message from Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett this week has been simple – if you don’t want it bad enough, you don’t deserve to win.
Frustrated by the run of four losses from their past five outings that has threatened to undo the good work they did during the opening rounds of the season, Bennett hasn’t minced words this week – according to halfback Tyrone Roberts – with the veteran coach having questioned whether or not his troops are willing to put the hard yards in.
“That’s been his message for us all week – that he wants to see some commitment from us,” Roberts told NRL.com ahead of Saturday’s clash with St George Illawarra at Hunter Stadium.
“We know that we did all the hard work in the pre-season and we’ve put in some good performances this year but [Bennett] told us that we need to be committed when we run onto the field. That’s all the focus has been.
“We played the Dragons earlier in the year and they won pretty easily because they wanted it more. So that’s what we need to focus on this week. If we turn up ready to put it all on the line we’ll be a good chance of getting the two points.”
The Knights were in the thick of the top-four fight during the early rounds, sitting equal with the Roosters and Manly as recently as Round 7, but narrow losses to Cronulla and Souths and disappointing outings away to Canberra and the Warriors could see them slip out of top eight should they fall again this weekend.
Most frustrating for Newcastle is the fact that they have split those four losses with arguably their best performance of the season – a 44-8 thrashing of Canterbury in Round 10. Ironically, that game is the only one the Bulldogs have lost over the same five-week period with Roberts insisting it is time for the Knights to start producing those results on a more consistent basis.
“That’s our goal,” he said. “It’s disappointing that we haven’t been able to back that Bulldogs performance up but we love playing at [Hunter Stadium] and we usually play well there. It’s good to be back home this week and hopefully that will help us as well.”
Roberts himself has been one of the surprise packets of Newcastle’s season in 2013.
Originally told by Bennett that he wouldn’t be starting the year in the NRL side, he quickly changed the coach’s mind with some brilliant performances in the pre-season and has played a significant role in the strides the Knights have made.
“I wasn’t really in the coach’s plans but after the first few trials he came up to me and said ‘You’re going to be playing and you’ve earned it’,” Roberts said.
“I’ve been pretty pleased with how I’ve been going so far, so hopefully I can just keep doing my job and contributing to the team.”
Roberts, who has played all 12 games this year, said he had worked hard to improve his defence in the off-season but was most pleased with the improved partnership he had formed with five-eighth Jarrod Mullen.
“I think our partnership has been progressing pretty well, we’ve got a good understanding,” he said.
“Jarrod still does most of the kicking and he is the dominant half but if I see that something is on I can overcall him. My job as a halfback is to try and take control of the game and I like to try and ease the pressure on Jarrod so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.
“I think we work well together.”