Plenty of improvement left in unbeaten Knights: Lillyman
Newcastle Knights veteran Jacob Lillyman said there's plenty for the side to improve on despite earning back-to-back wins for the first time to open a season since 2015.
The away side scored a thrilling comeback 30-28 victory over the Canberra Raiders, with a Sione Mata'utia try seven minutes from full-time keeping their perfect start to the season alive.
While it might be only two wins, the future looks brighter for the club after three seasons of heartache and rebuilding.
"Another tough one, we made it a bit hard for ourselves at times, but it was great to see the composure that we've got in the team," Lillyman said.
"We were always confident we had some points in us, and thankfully we've got some really good attacking players that can make the most of those opportunities."
Defensively the Knights will need to improve in round three against the Sydney Roosters.
Newcastle recorded 20 ineffective tackles against the Raiders while missing 32 over the 80 minutes.
"From the Manly game that was the main point to come out of that, we weren't good defensively against Manly and tonight (Sunday) there were certain areas where we let ourselves down," Lillyman said.
"Luckily it's only round two and we've got two wins on the board and we're confident we can fix those areas up."
Teenage fullback Kalyn Ponga again turned in an impressive performance to spark his new side from the back while laying on a try-assist to Lachlan Fitzgibbon.
"The good thing is he (Ponga) is a good, level-headed kid," Newcastle coach Nathan Brown said.
"He's going to get lots of accolades and rightly so, but as I said last week, things will get harder as teams look closer and try and stop what's he's good at."
Mitchell Pearce playing his former club the Roosters this weekend will dominate the discussion in the build-up to round three.
Lillyman backed his new teammates to soak up the energy from the hype and use it to give the Knights a hat-trick to start 2018.
"It's going to be a big week for him and I think we can help him out a bit with that," he said.
"But he's the ultimate professional and he'd want nothing more than to go there and sneak one past his old team."
Lillyman's hopes winning can be contagious for the younger players in the side, as they look to leave three seasons of rebuilding in the rear-view mirror.
"I think it's foreign territory for them, it's been a rough couple of years, but these boys have been through it," he said.
"They can savour it a bit more and they were really happy after the game and it's great to see because they're always willing to learn and listen.
"So, it's great for them to start the year off like this and hopefully they get addicted to the winning feeling."
The winning feeling for the 252-game veteran in the Knights jersey is also taking some getting used to, with Lillyman still needing some help with the team song.
"I am still struggling, they've got to hand the sheets out," he admitted.
"I've got the first four lines down, but it'll be nice to have a couple more practice runs in the next few weeks."
Match: Raiders v Knights
Round 2 -
Venue: GIO Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS