His long-term future at the Knights remains uncertain but Danny Levi is focused only on the present.
That single-mindedness helped the 23-year-old New Zealand international move on from a disappointing performance against Gold Coast one week earlier to play a starring role in Newcastle’s 28-14 victory over Parramatta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.
Levi looked sharp out of dummy-half, making an early break to set up a run-away Kalyn Ponga try, then following up with a short pass for Kiwi countryman James Gavet to crash over next to the posts.
One of several Newcastle players who had an unhappy afternoon against the Titans, Levi said the criticism helped narrow his focus in the lead-up to the game against the Eels.
He plans to use the same approach this week as he prepares for his annual New Zealand homecoming to play the Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium next Sunday.
“Whenever you see that sort of stuff, you always want to go out and have a big one and prove everyone wrong, but we can’t rest on that,” Levi told reporters after the victory over the Eels.
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“We’ve got some tough games coming up so we’ve got to keep building on that, and if we keep that same attitude and that same intensity, we’re going to go fine.
“I was disappointed with myself [after the Titans game] but I knew what I had to do, and that was my focus all week. I didn’t think of anything else, I just focused on my job and, if I was in the team, to do way better.”
Levi said coach Nathan Brown simplified his role and encouraged him to play to his strengths.
“I thought last week I was trying to dig it in the line and put everyone in holes but we just brought it back and played a bit more simpler, give the forwards early ball and let them get the quick ones, then reap the rewards off the back of it,” he said.
Levi is contracted until the end of 2020 but, not for the first time in his five-year NRL career in Newcastle, he is being shopped around. The Newcastle Herald reported last Saturday that the Knights have given his manager, Mario Tartak, written permission to negotiate with rival clubs.
“All my focus is getting wins for the Knights. I’ve kind of blocked all that off,” Levi said when asked about speculation around his future.
“Obviously I’d love to stay here. I love Newcastle – I call it my home away from home – but I can’t control the future. All I can control is the present and what I do from here on now.”
In a perfect world, Brown hopes Levi, Sione Mata’utia, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Daniel Saifiti and Mitch Barnett – home-grown juniors or players who have endured the tough times at the club – go on to form the nucleus of a premiership-winning Newcastle team.
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“I’d like to hope that they could be a part of this club for a long time and be good, consistent players in a side that keeps getting better each year,” Brown said.
Though he avoided clarifying whether Newcastle want to keep Levi or allow him to leave, Brown indicated the decision would be easier for him and Knights list manager Troy Pezet if the hooker played to his potential more consistently.
“... The key for all the players, in particular the ones who have been here for a period of time at the Knights, is about what are they going to next week, and what are they going to do the week after, and what are they going to do the week after,” Brown said.
“That’s the real challenge.”