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Levi staying loyal to the end, whenever that comes

He is no certainty to keep his job beyond this season, or even this week, but Newcastle hooker Danny Levi has pledged his allegiance to the Knights and vowed to do whatever it takes to help reignite their finals campaign.

After four straight losses, including a 28-26 defeat by Wests Tigers in Newcastle last Friday, Knights coach Nathan Brown has promised changes and Levi is one of several players believed to be under pressure to retain their position for a crunch match against in-form Manly at Lottoland on Saturday.

Utility Connor Watson is being considered for a promotion from the bench to start at dummy-half as the Knights, who have slipped to ninth, try to claw back into the top eight in the last six rounds.

“He said there’d be changes, so we’ll find out soon,” Levi told reporters on Monday after a no-holds-barred review and a training session heavily weighted towards defence.

“I only got to play 30 minutes on the weekend, so it’s up to the coach what he decides to do.

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“But I’ve always said, as long as I’m here, I’m still going to try my best for everyone and still play as hard as I can. Whatever he [decides], it’s his decision and I’ve just got to live with it.

“We’ve got a real good bunch of dudes here and I don’t want to be that guy who goes around and sulks and sooks and isolates himself and all that sort of thing.

“You don’t want to do that to yourself – it just makes everything worse. I’ve still got to enjoy my footy, no matter where I’m playing, and I’ve got a bunch of awesome friends out there who’ve always got my back and everything, so it’s good.”

Levi was confident the Knights would dig themselves “out of this rut” and would stick together and stay positive despite criticism about their recent results and performances.

The 23-year-old New Zealand international is contracted to Newcastle until the end of 2020 but he was given permission more than a year ago to pursue his future elsewhere.

That outcome seems more likely after reports emerged earlier this month that the Knights had secured the services of Cronulla hooker Jayden Brailey for the next three years, though there has been no official confirmation of that by the club.

Levi said he was leaving all discussions about his future to his manager, Mario Tartak, so he can concentrate on what he can control on the field.

“There’s still a lot of talk going on but I honestly can’t tell you at the minute,” he said.

“But like I’ve always said, while I’m here, I’m still going to be playing my best … for the Knights and trying to win a premiership here.

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“At the moment, it’s pretty clichéd, but I let my manager do all that sort of thing. My focus is here.”

Like Levi, back-rower Mitchell Barnett said the Knights were determined to make amends for their disappointing loss to the Tigers after blowing an early 12-0 lead.

“If we’re being fair dinkum about ourselves, it wasn’t good enough and we need to be better this week and for the rest of the season,” Barnett said.

Though the team will not be announced until Tuesday afternoon, Barnett indicated Brown made it clear at their review that some heads would roll, but hoped he had done enough to keep his spot in the pack to tackle the Sea Eagles.

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“I feel like I compete on every play possible, and I thought defensively, I didn’t come up too bad on the weekend, but whatever Browny wants is what Browny wants and we’ll roll with it,” Barnett said.

“If it’s me that’s on the chopping block, so be it, and I’ll go back and put my best foot forward for selection for the week after.”

When they lost five in a row earlier in the season, the Knights responded with six straight wins, so Barnett was sure they could pull out of their latest tailspin if they were desperate enough.

“I couldn’t put my finger on why we’ve done this,” he said.

“We were sitting in a good spot there, well inside the eight, and we’ve let it go at the moment, but it just depends on how much we want to play finals footy … Brick by brick, we’ve got to build back what we had, and it starts with our defence and our attitude towards it.

“It has been challenging to find things to say, especially positives when there’s been a few negatives being thrown around, but we’ve got a tight-knit bunch of boys here and we’re sticking solid together and we’re pumping each other up.

“At the end of the day, we’re the only ones who can get ourselves out of it, and we’re very confident we can do that this weekend.”

 

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