Newcastle game-breaker Kalyn Ponga has conceded the Knights believed some of their own pre-season hype and expected they could win games by just turning up.
The Knights were tipped by many to be one of the NRL's big improvers this year, having recruited NSW and Australian prop David Klemmer and the likes of Jesse Ramien, Edrick Lee, Kurt Mann, Tim Glasby, Hymel Hunt and James Gavet to a team already boasting Ponga and Mitchell Pearce.
A five-game losing streak looked like sinking their campaign before it even began but the Knights have since righted the ship with three straight wins to be sitting two points outside the top eight.
The third loss in that sequence was to St George Illawarra in Newcastle on April 7 – a 13-12 extra-time heart-breaker – then they dropped games to Manly and Gold Coast, but they have regrouped to defeat the Eels, Warriors and Bulldogs.
"We did have a lot of new players, and I guess the players that we got, they're pretty high-profile, and we just thought that we were going to go out there and smash it every week," Ponga told reporters in Newcastle on Thursday.
"But we have to build those combinations and we have to get comfortable with our positions and our roles and I'd say a lot of us are now, and that's probably why we're playing so smoothly."
Looking sharper and more settled back at fullback after playing the first three games alongside Pearce at five-eighth, Ponga has scored a try in Newcastle's past four games and tallied 10 points (Bulldogs), 20 points (Warriors) and 16 points (Eels) in their past three wins.
As they prepare for a rematch with the Dragons at Mudgee on Sunday, Ponga said Newcastle's attack was not as "clunky" as it was in the first month of the season because players knew their roles, and each other.
"We're keeping it pretty simple," he said.
"We're not doing much outside the little simple things, so that probably makes it easier as well, but at the beginning of the year, it was probably always going to be clunky.
"I guess we've built into the season – it probably took us a few more games than we would have liked to – but we're all comfortable now."
Ponga said the loss to the Dragons six weeks ago was particularly painful "but we probably know who we are a bit more now, and what it takes to win, and the little things that we need to do".
Coach Nathan Brown said Lee and five-eighth Connor Watson were making steady progress from foot injuries and he anticipated they would play against the Dragons.
Match: Dragons v Knights
Round 10 -
Venue: Glen Willow Oval
- LIVE PASS
Scans revealed Lee and Watson suffered the same injuries – a ruptured plantar fascia – against the Bulldogs in Brisbane last Saturday. Brown said both players would be assessed on Friday after training on Thursday but "they're much more likely than unlikely".
"With the plantar fascia, if it's not ruptured, you've got to manage it and it's worse than rupturing it," Brown told reporters on Thursday.
"If you rupture it and you can get through the pain, it gets better."
Meanwhile, the Knights have set a new membership record of 20,329, surpassing the previous mark of 18,017 set last year.
"It's awesome to have that support," Ponga said.
"Especially since I've been here, I've always known that we've got that support, but it seems to be growing and it's pretty special. It's pretty cool."