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Grind set: Saifiti wants gritty to become 'new normal'

Andrew Johns labelled it one of the club's greatest performances and Daniel Saifiti wants the defensive grit shown against the Panthers to be Newcastle's new normal.

The NSW prop wants to quickly get to a stage where people won't "rave" about it.

Despite being without suspended star fullback Kalyn Ponga and then losing Mitchell Pearce and Connor Watson in the early stages, the Knights left many pundits and commentary experts surprised on Sunday when they came from 14-0 behind to level and force a draw.

Blooding three debutants and another rookie in Bradman Best for the clash, the Knights had every excuse available to surrender to an expected defeat to a Panthers side which was at full strength apart from Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards.

Newcastle conceded 26.9 points per game under Nathan Brown across four seasons but have started promisingly under a new mindset from Adam O'Brien to give up just 12.7 in the opening three games.

"For him to say that it's a good indication of where we're at but in saying that we can't be resting on our laurels and look at that as our best game," Saifiti said on Wednesday of Johns's comments.

"[But] while it was courageous we've still got a lot to give, we want to get to a point where in a few weeks not everyone's raving about it but that's just our standard from now on sort of thing.

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"There were times last year we were in the similar situation and I was a part of it, there were people who were looking towards Pearcey and Kalyn to break the game open and when both of them weren't on the field [on Sunday] I think we all had the mindset that we could all contribute on the field.

"We spoke as a group about coming down to earth, we've got the competition favourites this weekend."

Saifiti (251 metres) led the way with front-row teammate David Klemmer (252 metres) in the 90-minute clash and will need to back up their performances against a Raiders pack boasting in-form international Josh Papalii.

"They're very well covered all over the park with great forwards, their halves are playing well and outside backs are strong and big," Saifiti said.

"We've got to be wary of them and step up another gear and try to match it with them.

"I think the quantity was there [from us against Penrith] but going into this week I want to focus on quality."

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Saifiti's twin brother Jacob is also enjoying a stellar start to the season after injury and an off-field incident last pre-season plagued his progress.

Off contract at season's end, Daniel is confident Jacob's performances in the coming months will help him secure a new deal at the club.

"He's got a bit of time to weigh up his options but from when I've talked to him he definitely wants to stay," Daniel said.

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"In the off-season we talked and he said he felt like he wasted three years and I told him to not think of it like that and treat it like a learning curve.

"I felt the same too. He saw it as a new start with Adsy [O'Brien] coming in and as a breath of fresh air.

"The way he's played in the first three games is just reward for him and while I'm proud of him I'm sort of not surprised because I've always had big raps on Jacob but injuries and other stuff was just holding him back."

The Knights are hopeful Pearce will pass the concussion protocols in a bid to play, but have lost Connor Watson for at least six weeks to an ankle injury.

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Saifiti said Watson's replacement at dummy-half, former Broncos veteran Andrew McCullough, had benefited from an extra week of training before Sunday's club debut at Campbelltown.

"His experience has definitely shown coming in, he was a bit quiet at first but now he's starting to get a bit more vocal," he said.

"He's demanding things at training which is what you want from your hooker."