The smile was back on David Klemmer’s face after Newcastle’s one-sided victory over North Queensland last Saturday but the NSW and Australian enforcer is all business again as the Knights prepare for another must-win game against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown.
Klemmer will lead the Newcastle pack on Saturday in a game between two teams sitting outside the top eight on 20 points with three games remaining.
The winner will remain in the finals race for at least another week but the loser will be eliminated.
Newcastle’s win against the Cowboys ended a six-game losing streak and restored some much-needed confidence but Klemmer said it would count for little if they lose to Wests Tigers, who have dropped back-to-back games to the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles.
“Just seeing everyone smile. Rugby league’s an emotional game, and there’s a lot of emotions in it, and people’s headspace as well, so that will fix it up a bit,” Klemmer said on Monday.
“We can take a little bit out of that game on the weekend, but it’s gone now – we’ve got to worry about playing Wests Tigers on Saturday – so we’ve got to concentrate on that now.
Tackle of the week: Round 22
“They’re a classy outfit, they’ve got some strike in their footy side, and we’ve got to play similar to what we played on the weekend.
“If we can have the same enthusiasm and hold the footy, we can score some points. If we can hold the football and build pressure, and do those things, it makes the games easier.”
Klemmer said the Knights have never given up hope of reaching the finals, but admitted his faith was tested during the past six weeks.
“I always thought we were in there amongst it. Obviously it was gutting losing all those games in a row, and it’s hard, then you start thinking the season’s gone sort of thing,” he said.
“A win on the weekend helped us a bit, and some results have gone our way, but we’re in the race still and there’s some belief in the squad that we can still make it.”
If they can get past Wests Tigers, Newcastle finish at home to Gold Coast and away to Penrith, and there is genuine belief in the squad that if they win all three games they will sneak into the eight.
But Klemmer was not looking beyond the 80 minutes against Wests Tigers on Saturday.
“For me personally, I’m just looking at week in, week out,” the 25-year-old metre-eater said.
Try of the week: Round 22
“We can’t go looking and hoping for those things. Obviously we want to be there, but we’ve got to take it week by week and hope other results go our way, but for us to keep marching forward, we’re always focusing on the week to come.
“I know people are trying to make us look into the future, and obviously it’s there, but the important thing is week in, week out for us. We’ve got to concentrate on this game against the Tigers.”
Despite being Sydney-born and raised, the All Saints Toongabbie junior and former Bulldogs prop has never played at Campbelltown in a 131-game NRL career that kicked off in 2013.
“I reckon Campbelltown’s a great stadium to play at,” he said.
“I’ve only played juniors there – so it’s a great stadium to play at and 5:30 on a Saturday … I love playing Saturdays, so we’ll get down there a bit early with the lads and enjoy each other’s company and look forward to a big game.”
Mbye happy to welcome Reynolds back into the mix
Klemmer expects former Bulldogs team-mate Josh Reynolds to spark Wests Tigers on Saturday.
Injuries to Robbie Farah, Moses Mbye and Jacob Liddle have created an opportunity for Reynolds, who last played for Wests Tigers against the Titans almost four months ago and is desperate for a chance to showcase his talents in a bid to find a new NRL home.
“Everyone knows what Josh is about,” Klemmer said.
“He’s an outstanding footballer who brings a lot of energy … so to bring him in the side, they don’t lose too much. He’s a great player and he knows how to play footy, so we’ve got to watch for him.
“His body’s pretty good because he’s well rested – he hasn’t played too much football – so whoever picks him up, they’re going to get a handy buy.”