Buderus, Gidley lay down home truths
While the Knights' first half was described by the debutant mentor as "fun", interim Newcastle coach Danny Buderus was open in his assessment of Newcastle's performance after his side were outscored 32-4 in the second half in the Novocastrians' eventual 46-24 loss to the Dragons.
While the loss of prop Kade Snowden to concussion in the opening 10 minutes didn't help their cause, Buderus – who's just two years into retirement – said their second-half collapse was a matter of the team's younger players not yet being able to beat their own mental demons.
"The ability to push through that pain barrier that we're so craving as a club will hopefully come with experience," Buderus said.
"We need to get the guys in that head space where they can compete with themselves before they compete with their opposite team.
"It's an important five weeks coming up. I think it was step in the right direction from the point of view of hanging in. We just have to keep positive."
Sitting next to his former teammate and now coach was Knights captain Kurt Gidley, who offered similar advice to the likes of rookies stars which undoubtedly include Joe Tapine, Jake Mamo, Sione Mata'utia and debutants Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Nathan Ross.
Considering by season's end Buderus and Gidley will be the two most-capped Knights of all-time – with the fullback pencilled in to play his 250th game against Penrith in Round 26 – it is guidance which shouldn't be ignored.
"The biggest thing about being a first grader is the mental game. We're all physically fit and strong but it's the mental battle that the experienced players – it's why they have played so many games – can push themselves past what their limits are," Gidley said.
"Our senior players know they'll win it back and they don't want to let their teammates down so that's the biggest learning curve for our team and our club. As a young guy, being able to push yourself mentally past what you think you can go [is something which needs to be achieved]."
Reflecting on his first game in charge, Buderus said while his "head was about to blow off" he couldn't fault the Knights' attitude leading into the game despite their lack of fight by game's end.
"They could only fight so much. Winning the battle within is key. That's the thing which separates the good players from the great players. It is hard work in the middle especially when you're young and you know they're coming at you again," Buderus said.
"It's disappointing to see mistakes from the boys. It's just killing themselves which is a shame for all involved because you know how hard they're working to get in a position to play well.
"It's not fun at times when you're in the middle but what is fun is when you come out the other side of it and realise you did challenge yourself and managed to get the job done... so it was a good foundation for the next five weeks."