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Newcastle have been the giant killers of the competition in recent weeks with three victories on the back of their forward pack aiming up and matching it with the opposition.

The Knights have struggled around the ruck in the past three seasons but that has been a constant since Andrew Johns' early retirement.   

While they still remain in 16th position on the Telstra Premiership ladder and in the run-metres statistic, their three victories over St George Illawarra, the Warriors and Parramatta have in no coincidence come with a strong performance up front.

It is no secret the club are also on the lookout for more forwards to add to a roster that is already boasting young talent in Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, Mitch Barnett and Josh King. 

"At the end of the day if you're not going forward it's hard to run off the back of that," Knights centre Dane Gagai said at the team's recovery session following the side's upset win over Parramatta.

"I believe our forwards have stepped up their game and been at their best against quality teams in the Dragons."

Newcastle ran for 1740 metres against the Eels, their highest of the season to date and smashing their average of 1346 in recent weeks to more than 300 extra metres per game.

In their five wins this season the Knights have managed to play at more than 50 per cent possession. Anything under the halfway mark has resulted in defeat. 

It's only minor, but it all counts.

When you consider the Knights have led eight times at half-time and gone on to lose, their five wins and 16 losses is probably not a true reflection of their season as they are in line for a third wooden spoon. 

"When teams put points on us it would snowball but the boys have learnt how to stop that momentum and get back into the grind of the game," Gagai said.

"Things are starting to look up and there is a few signings that will be great for the club. 

"You spend most of your days with the boys so it's been great to be able to celebrate after a tough few years."

Newcastle are under no illusions they face a tough run home with a clash against competition leaders Melbourne on Saturday, followed by the Raiders in Canberra and defending premiers Cronulla on Old Boys day.

With the Wests Tigers winning on Sunday over Manly, Nathan Brown's side will need to pull off another upset before the year is out to have any chance of getting off the bottom of the table. 

"The competitiveness and effort has always been there but Melbourne is obviously a massive challenge to not take the foot off," Gagai said. 

"They're the benchmark and you know what to expect but anything can happen. Usually when we play them it makes a great game of footy. Whether we win or lose it's usually close."

Gagai is under no illusions stopping Queensland teammate Cameron Smith's game management will be the key on Saturday. 

The Knights lost by four points when the two sides clashed in the Hunter last season, but incredibly only seven players in Brown's line-up remain. 

"Cameron controls the game really well so it obviously starts from him, but there is 17 blokes in a team," Gagai said.

"They've got big outside backs and a strong forward pack.

"We have to make sure we hit the ground running."


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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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