Was Newcastle’s 34-4 Storm warning a fortnight ago the loss they had to have?
Knights coach Nathan Brown expects the answer to be apparent when they host Brisbane at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
Melbourne were relentless and ruthless in stopping Newcastle’s six-game winning streak at AAMI Park on June 15, and the Knights had to spend the representative weekend stewing on that result.
Before that, they were the league’s hottest team, rebounding from a five-game losing skid with six straight victories culminating in comprehensive wins against defending premiers Sydney Roosters and early 2019 pace-setters South Sydney.
Brown wants to see how his players rebound against the Broncos, themselves smarting from back-to-back losses to Parramatta and Gold Coast, to determine if they learnt any lessons in Melbourne.
“Nothing positive will come out of that if we don’t learn from it,” Brown said on Friday.
“Our last loss before that was the Gold Coast, and we thought that was our really, really worst performance of the year.
“Our performance against Melbourne was very, very different – there was still a lot of commitment there – but at the end of the day, our ball control was poor, and one or two things we’ve done well, we didn’t do well …
“When we got put under pressure and fell behind on the scoreboard, we fell away from the things that have worked well for us.
“Whether that loss was a good loss or not, we will only tell next time we fall behind on the scoreboard. If we work out what works for us and stick to it, then have the discipline to stick to it.
“Hopefully we learn that lesson from it and if that happens … then it’s not such a bad loss, but if we find ourselves in a similar situation and we do similar things, then losing is never good.”
Though Brisbane have slipped to 12th, Brown said the Knights were preparing for them to be at their best because of the urgency created by successive defeats to teams outside the eight.
Newcastle were in a similar situation earlier in the year but dug their way out of the mire, and Brown is sure it is only a matter of time before the Broncos do the same.
“They’ve already had a couple of players come out and say this is it for them … that if they don’t come out and win this game, they feel that their year is gone,” he said.
“They’ve let a number of players go in the past few months, of decent quality, to I suppose keep the younger generation at the club. The coach is probably working out some different things about different players and different styles.
“The Broncs’ really good this year has been good enough to beat the Roosters and the best sides, so we’re expecting that.
“Their last couple of performances, I’m sure they probably weren’t happy with, but we had a few of them ourselves earlier in the year, then we went on a roll and played really, really well.
“All’s we know is that they’ve got a highly talented bunch of players with plenty of Origin and Test players in their side, and if we don’t come out and do what we do well, we’ll be in trouble.”
Brown indicated Blues prop David Klemmer had recovered sufficiently from the fractured wrist he suffered in Origin I and will take his place in the starting pack alongside Daniel Saifiti, who replaced him in the NSW team for Origin II.
Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga (thigh) and middle forward Tim Glasby (elbow), who have been receiving treatment for injuries suffered in Perth last Sunday, are also expected to play after completing training on Friday.
“All the guys have come through OK, apparently, so we’ll see how they pull up tomorrow but we’re expecting all those guys to play,” Brown said.
“When you’ve got quite experienced players like Klem and Glas, they know their body better than us and both guys trained yesterday and pulled up OK today and trained again today and appear like they’re right to go, so unless something changes overnight, we’d expect them to play.”
Samoan international James Gavet is expected to drop back to the bench to make way for Klemmer’s return.
The game against the Broncos will be the first of three straight at home for Newcastle. Any Origin representatives will be unavailable when the Knights host the Warriors on July 6, then those same players could be required to back up against the Bulldogs 48 hours after the July 10 Origin decider.