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Knights prop David Klemmer.

The goal that drove David Klemmer up the M1 Motorway from the Bulldogs to the Knights 14 months ago hasn't changed.

In fact, that goal is now more deeply embedded in the big prop's mind, driving him harder than it did in 2019.

"My main focus this year, again, is playing semi-finals football. Whatever I've got to do to achieve that, I'm doing," Klemmer told knowing that he had uttered that same mantra in November 2018.

"I want to get this team in the position to play semi-finals football. That's my goal. It would be a massive, massive thing for me.

"I'm doing everything I can to get the body right, [and] the head right to bring that about."

In the 26-year-old's mind "it has been ages" since he felt the warmth of September footy, when in actual fact it was only 2016 with the Bulldogs.

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"But that means I'm coming up to four years – too long in an NRL career to be missing out on finals."

It's been nearly seven years for the Knights, who came from seventh on the ladder in 2013 to the preliminary finals under Wayne Bennett.

"You put in all this time and effort over the years to play semi-finals so it's pretty disappointing not to be there," Klemmer said.

"It's hard to take – we all made it a goal last year to get there and we failed. We took a hard look at ourselves during the off-season and decided it's somewhere we all want to be."

I want to get this team ... to play semi-finals football

Knights prop David Klemmer

So what happened to a team that won seven out of eight games mid-2019 and then loses six in a row right behind that to stifle any top-eight push?

"When we had the winning streak, things were working out for us in games. We didn't give away too many penalties, we got the rub of the green, the ball was bouncing our way with calls. It was the other side making mistakes," Klemmer said.

"But when some of that happened to us – errors, getting penalised, or not getting the right call – we'd drop our heads and then teams would score a couple of tries against us.

"It wasn't working out for us and we mentally struggled during those tougher times.

"Adzy [new coach Adam O'Brien] was seeing that in us and that's what he's been working hard on this pre-season.

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"A lot of the time away in camp at Tamworth was to get some resilience into us as a football side."

Klemmer is leading the way. In 2019 he averaged 170 metres per game with a tackle efficiency rate of over 96 per cent - not bad for a 116-kilo, two-metre tall man.

How does he intend to keep that up?

"A hell of a lot of meat ... and veggies," he said.

Klemmer, who has 134 NRL appearances to his name, should also realise another milestone – his 150th.

"When you say it feels pretty special just to get that far. When you come through as a kid you dream of one NRL game so you can say you made it," he said.

Knights coach Adam O'Brien.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

"When I played 100 it was very special to have my kids there by my side. They'll be there again for 150.

"And for me, it's more about making them proud about what I do with my footy career. I want to be a good role model for them."

His three young sons have finally forgiven him for leaving the Bulldogs.

"They're over it finally. They are now Knights boys – but I'm now their second favourite player. Kalyn [Ponga] is their first, I just can't compete."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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