Hodkinson no certainty to return for Knights
Knights coach Nathan Brown insists that the lack of experience in his side continues to plague their performances but is adamant only good form will earn former Origin half Trent Hodkinson an NRL recall.
For the second week in succession the Knights let a half-time advantage slip, this time on the Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon. But unlike a week prior in Townsville against the Cowboys they were unable to stay in the contest, conceding 32 unanswered points in the second term to go down 38-8 against the Titans – just the second time this year they had conceded more than 30 points in a game.
The possession swing that went the way of the Titans for the final 60 minutes of the match made it hard for an inexperienced Knights team to turn momentum their way, 20-year-old five-eighth Brock Lamb and 22-year-old halfback Jaelen Feeney struggling to assert any control in the second half.
With Jamie Buhrer and Rory Kostjasyn sidelined for the foreseeable future through injury, Hodkinson's absence following his shock axing last week is having a telling effect but Brown was clear when asked what it would take for Hodkinson to be selected again against the Raiders in a fortnight's time.
"He played today in reserve grade. It was on at a similar time to our game so I'm not even sure how he played but he'll be judged on his performance as all the players are," Brown said.
As the NRL team were copping a hiding on the Gold Coast there was little more cause for optimism in Sydney as the Knights went down 42-26 to Wests Tigers in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
Hodkinson laid on a try late and kicked three goals for Newcastle but given the fact that he has been a part of two losses since being dropped Brown may be reluctant to issue a reprieve.
Buhrer is not expected to return until Round 14 with a foot injury while Kostjasyn is still to play a game for the club after suffering a bizarre throat injury during pre-season training in January.
As a result the Knights are going through a similar process to last year in blooding young players in the NRL perhaps before they are ready and Brown knows the absence of senior players is making their learning curve a steep one.
"We're comfortable that the young guys have made some really good progress but we know we'd be far better if Rory and Jamie and the few experienced blokes we've got at the club were playing," Brown said.
"They would help in these situations like today, when they are under fatigue because they know they can play through it and they're great talkers and great leaders for us.
"So not having them there obviously doesn't help the situation that we're in but we know if we put the right players around this group we know how much they're going to improve as well."
Brown praised Lamb for his first-half display that he said was the best 40 minutes of his fledgling career but as the possession count swung towards the Titans the more the Knights struggled.
With only 42 per cent of the ball the Knights finished with just over half the completed sets of the Titans (19 to 34) over 80 minutes, resulting in four tries for the home side in the final 21 minutes.
"One of our big issues is weight of possession which probably hurt us in the first half," Brown said.
"When we went set-for-set we looked quite OK. In our first decent good-ball set Sione [Mata'utia] went half through and we come up with a pass which would have been a possible try but we had to kick it because it wasn't quite high enough.
"Then we got held up, we scored and then got a penalty goal and that was our only efforts down there for the first half.
"That weight of possession kills us in the development of our younger players. Some players who were outstanding in the first half look like they're not good players in the second half.
"We've got a lot of players at the moment that unfortunately when the weight of possession keeps going against it as it does, we can't mentally hang through it long enough.
"For us, we leak two [tries] and then our attack goes poor and then we have people who don't look like they're good players.
"But they are good players and they'll be a lot better as they play more games and train harder and get to play with some more experienced players.
"As we showed in that first half we are certainly more than capable, we just need to do things a little bit better and do them for longer."