Rick Stone clarified the future of one of his men and another repaid his faith as Newcastle halted their five-game losing run with a 22-12 win over the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon.
Report: Knights snap five-game losing streak
Tyrone Roberts repays the faith of his coach
The Newcastle halfback has not been the most popular man in the Hunter throughout their horrendous five-game losing streak, but a return to the winner's list and without Jarrod Mullen to work with, Roberts led from the front.
While Stone ignored recent calls to drop Roberts to NSW Cup after numerous indifferent displays, the 23-year-old managed to repay the faith to not only Stone but to the 15,000-strong crowd present at Hunter Stadium.
"He's been under a bit of stick, Tyrone. And he's still establishing himself as an out-and-out first grade halfback even though he's played a number of consecutive games," Stone said post-game.
"I thought his kicking game was controlled where Tedesco was able to get to the ball pretty well for most of the match. I was really happy for Tyrone. I know he sometimes gets a fair bit of criticism, sometimes it's probably warranted.
"But for him to stand up today and play as well as he did just shows there's plenty underneath the hood in Tyrone. Hopefully we'll see a bit more to come in the next few weeks."
Rick Stone clarifies Joey Leilua's future at the club
With Knights centre Joey Leilua activating an existing clause in his contract which has given him the right to leave on his own accord this week, Stone clarified the club weren't happy to see him leave.
"Let's get one thing clear: Joey activated a clause in his contract that he had the right to change clubs. We haven't let him go. Joey's decided he wanted to go," Stone said.
"If it went my way, I wouldn't be letting him go, because he's a quality player and he had committed to the club for another year. But he has a clause in his contract which he's activated and he has decided to go."
With rumour rife Leilua may leave before the June 30 deadline to take up a deal with rumoured suitors the Canberra Raiders, Stone added he expects the 23-year-old to hang around for the remainder of the year and said he has already warned Leilua to continue doing what he has been doing.
"We spoke to Joey about if you're going to evoke that clause, then you have to get some credit off the boys in how you play and how you train. So we've had some good strong talks over the last couple of weeks about what he's going to do," Stone said.
"He's pretty upfront and forthright about what he's doing. His job is to continue to play with passion, desire and energy for us for the rest of the year."
Tigers desperately needed the win
While they have only dropped their past two games, if you take away the outlier in their huge victory over the Bulldogs in Round 8, the Tigers have dropped four of their past five.
With captain Robbie Farah and prop Aaron Woods now set to miss five of the next eight weeks for the club, it doesn't get any easier as they brace themselves for a Cowboys team currently on a huge roll.
"We've got to be better right from the start," Taylor said post-game.
"[Newcastle] were working harder than we were from the start and put us on the back foot and we found it really hard to get out of that. We did a few times and we did well to do that, but not for long enough and not consistently enough."
Tigers halves Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses continue their development
Between them they may have missed nine tackles against the Knights, as Moses contributed with seven of his own, but Taylor was pleased with how the duo played in an attacking sense.
"I thought Mitch Moses was really good tonight, it was great for him. Some really strong running and made a couple of breaks and gave us some opportunities with a couple of plays he came up with," Taylor said.
"That was really good. But all in all, I thought we kicked well in general. I thought the halves' kicking kept us in the game because we were on the back foot.
"Particularly in the second half they really kicked well, long kicking I'm talking about. That helped keep Newcastle at bay for probably longer than what it might. "
While Tariq Sims exploited the defence of the NRL's smallest player in Moses, his attacking prowess enabled his team to remain in the game.
A win's a win for the Knights
Stone, while not completely satisfied with the victory, was happy his team had learnt to win again.
"I think [the Tigers] had a bit of luck in the second half and we probably didn't help ourselves," he said.
"We made things harder for ourselves as we went down the stretch but I was just happy to get the two points especially after five losses in a row, you start to think you may have forgotten how to win, but there were some good positive signs there."