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Knights use 1997 for final boost

Newcastle are set to focus on the achievements of 1997 in their traditional Old Boys Day clash against the Cronulla Sharks on Sunday.

‌The celebration will mark 20 years since the famous occasion an underdog Knights line-up scored a try through Darren Albert on the siren to beat Manly 22-16 at Allianz Stadium.

All members of the 1997 squad are expected to attend the game and Knights lock Mitch Barnett believes in a similar way against Parramatta, the side will be out to cause an upset.

After suffering back-to-back heavy defeats in recent weeks, Newcastle will face a desperate Sharks outfit wanting to finish in the top four by the end of the round.

"It's Old Boys Day and the last game of the year, a lot of the boys won't play with each other again and we owe it to our fans to finish on a good note," Barnett said.

"We have improved this year. The Sharks are probably one of the hot favourites to go a long way in the semi-finals, if not all the way.

"Last time they beat us by one point so if we can deliver a little bit better this time and get a win, it would be good going into next year for ourselves and it will be good for the Old Boys to celebrate a great day."

Newcastle are set to farewell Queensland representative Dane Gagai, veteran prop Mickey Paea and Englishmen Joe Wardle in their final games for the club.

The futures of Peter Mata'utia, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Luke Yates remain up in the air – although offers from the Knights are reportedly on the table for the trio.

With five new recruits in 2018 headlined by Roosters utility Connor Watson and Cowboys prodigy Kalyn Ponga, Newcastle are on the rise.

Barnett felt optimistic about what lies ahead for the club but believed the current crop of players had unfinished business to finish the season.

"We can't just rely on getting some good players, we need to work really hard and continue to develop and want to get better," he said.

"Those blokes who are staying at the club can continue to learn, develop and work hard.

"If we can do that, we will improve next year and the club will continue to move forward."

Newcastle requires the Warriors to beat Wests Tigers on Sunday and victory against the Sharks by a good margin to avoid their third consecutive wooden spoon.

The Knights went back to some old habits against the Raiders, getting off to a slow start before conceding a season-high 46 points – after letting in 44 the week prior against Melbourne at home.

"We didn't have good discipline coming out of yardage and we gave them a couple of penalties which they were able to capitalise on," Barnett said.

"They had mountains of possession there against us and unfortunately we didn't get the result."

Cronulla handed the Knights their second biggest defeat in club history last season with a 62-0 hammering in the Hunter.

For young halfback Jack Cogger, it was a debut game he will always remember despite being on the wrong end of the scoreboard.

"It is one I won't forget but probably the scoreline would make me want to forget," he said.

"I was living out a childhood dream but they scored a lot of points that day so I remember that [most]. 

"It will be good to get out there this weekend and hopefully get one back on them."

It's expected Cogger will play his second game of the season alongside Trent Hodkinson in the halves when the side is named on Tuesday afternoon.


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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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