Knights eager to make the most of unfamiliar territory
The Newcastle Knights are in a situation they haven't experienced in recent years - in the finals picture 10 rounds into a season. And it's exactly where they want to stay.
In recent years the finals were already out of the equation by May, but with a 5-5 record they are now just one win behind the logjam of teams covering positions four through eight on the competition ladder.
Heading into Saturday's clash with the Gold Coast Titans, Newcastle forward Mitchell Barnett urged his teammates not to let this chance slip away.
"This year our aim is the eight," Barnett said.
"It is every year, but the past couple of years we haven't started that way.
"We've put ourselves in a position to play well and keep in touch with the eight, and I am sure if we go there and play our game we can do the job and somewhere around the end of the season we'll be in the eight."
However, the players are aware that they will need to improve dramatically on the last two performances, back-to-back losses to South Sydney and Penrith.
NRL veteran Chris Heighington points out that, while discipline is the key issue from the inexperienced squad, it is not going to take much to fix it with the right attitude.
"It is a big issue, just some silly penalties for offside where you are just 10cm offside," he said.
"So it is important to get those little things right - hopefully we can learn from it, as it has been that way for the past few weeks.
"It can change within the week, so hopefully we can do that going up to the Gold Coast."
As frustrating as the performances are for the players, Heighington says it is just as bad for the coach.
"He is and he ought to be [frustrated] because he knows he has got a really good squad and a real talented squad and the past two games we haven't played to our best," he said.
"But I've seen a lot more frustrated coaches over my years."
Barnett has defended the constant changes to the squad from coach Nathan Brown, dismissing claims that it has led to inconsistent performances.
"The team that Browny puts out there every week is the best team," the second row said.
"We train together every day, so it does not matter who he brings in, or who goes out, because the next person is going to do the same job.
"So whoever Browny wants to put in the 17, we are extremely confident in it."