Knights keen to sidestep stats
This is the last week Newcastle players would be interested in statistics. Not when the biggest one – relating to their awful record in Melbourne – is likely to be shoved down their throats every time they open their mouths to talk about the game.
The thing the Knights have got going for them is that they have no shortage of players who have won premierships, spread around several clubs, and the coach who knows more about winning premierships than any other coach in history – Wayne Bennett.
You can be sure the last thing Bennett thinks is that because the Knights have lost 10 straight games against the Storm in Melbourne and haven't won there since 2004 it hurts their chances of winning the game at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Bennett hasn't won seven premierships by entertaining the word "can't".
Asked if he had any interest in statistics in a week like this, Knights forward Chris Houston told NRL.com: "You're never interested in the negative ones. Look, it's no secret we don't have the best record down there, but personally I don't take too much notice of that sort of stuff. It's a fresh 80 minutes, it's a fresh game."
Houston said that even in an average week he didn't take much notice of statistics, whether they referred to the records teams had against one another or were breakdowns of team and individual performances.
"I'm not big on the stats," he said. "I don't really care how many metres you make, or how many tackles. It's whether you do it effectively, and that's what I try to do."
The Knights have lost both of their games against the Storm this season, but were still very competitive each time. They were in front, 14-10, at halftime of a 16-14 loss at AAMI Park in Round 14, and also led, 8-4, at halftime of a 23-10 loss at Hunter Stadium in Round 23.
Asked if the Knights, even though they lost, still felt good about a lot of what they did against the Storm in those games, Houston replied: "Yeah, we do. We were very competitive against them. We always have pretty close games against Melbourne, I think."
The Storm have won eight of the past 10 clashes at all venues against the Knights, but there were only two blowout results among those. The Storm won each of those games by 30 points, both times in Melbourne – in 2010 and '11.
The other six wins to Melbourne were by two, four, 10 and 12 points, all in Melbourne, and six and 13 points in Newcastle.
This is an elimination finals game. Anything can happen, and while the results in Melbourne don't look good for the Knights there are still plenty of positive statistics to be found regarding their form against the Storm this year.
Left centre Joseph Leilua scored two tries in the game in Melbourne and another in the game in Newcastle. Right-side centre and winger Dane Gagai and Akuila Uate ran for 154 metres and 171 respectively in the game in Melbourne and 129 and 130 in the game in Newcastle.
The threat offered by Gagai and Uate could potentially mean a lot, considering that the Storm's problems with their left-side defence remain. Sea Eagles right-side centre and winger Jamie Lyon and David Williams carved up the Storm as recently as their Round 25 clash.
The Sea Eagles won that game 28-8, with Williams scoring three tries. Lyon and Williams have a great understanding. Gagai and Uate haven't been together for nearly as long as them, but their understanding is improving all the time.
Kade Snowden had two monster metre-eating games against the Storm, running for 187 metres in Melbourne and 196 in Newcastle, before he was suspended. The Knights could obviously do with him in this game, but it should be pointed out neither Willie Mason nor Jeremy Smith played in the game in Newcastle.
Both are playing in this game and both are in form, having made their presence felt in the 22-6 win over the Bulldogs in last Sunday's elimination final.
Mason ran for 102 metres and made one line-break in his 36 minutes. Included in his work were a couple of big charges in quick succession that really lifted the team. Smith ran for 106 metres and made one line-break and two offloads and scored a try during his 52 minutes.
It was a dynamic charge by Smith that ended with him powering over the line to score the last of the Knights' three tries and effectively put the game out of the Bulldogs' reach that was one of the highlights of the match.
Talking in cold, hard statistics about how far Smith ran to score the try doesn't do the moment justice. This was about sheer determination. And that is also a reminder that statistics don't paint the full picture.
We never automatically know which team is going to win, which is why they play the games.