Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien says the "toughness, grit and fight" of his side in the 26-16 loss to the Storm has him convinced they can do some damage if they play finals football.
The Knights were poor the previous week in a home loss to the Bulldogs and O’Brien gave them a stern reality check about their attitude and desire.
The players responded and made the Storm work hard for victory right across the park.
Young centre Bradman Best epitomised their courage. O’Brien said Best was hobbling in the dressing room post-match with some kind of an ankle complaint and played the whole second half with the injury hoping it would come good.
"We were brave. Everything I was complaining about last week I thought we had," he said.
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"There is some stuff that we need to get better at – not getting to kick-offs, some polish on the end of some of the plays and the kicking.
"On a whole I couldn’t be more proud of them this week. I was really disappointed last week with our attitude but in terms of that we have gone full scale the other way.
"[The Storm] give plenty of teams lessons. We got some last time we played them and some more tonight but I thought we matched them for toughness, grit and heart."
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He said he hadn’t given his side "an out" or any reason for underachieving but made the point that he was missing seven experienced first-graders.
"Take seven players out of a top-four team and ask them to play another top four and I don’t know if you will get a more courageous effort than what we got," he said.
"We need to turn up with that attitude every week. I said to them that I am proud of them but we need to turn up with that fight every week."
The Knights are now hanging on to seventh on the Telstra Premiership ladder with 13 competition points just ahead of South Sydney and Manly on 12 and Wests Tigers on 10.
They now have three home games in a row against the Wests Tigers, Manly and Cowboys and O’Brien said they would need to "hang on to that grit and toughness" shown against the Storm.
"It is a challenge and we can choose to moan about who we don’t have or celebrate who we do and flip the mindset and go after it," he said.
"We are still in the eight. We have been through the worst of the travel and have a lot of home games, which clearly based on last week doesn’t guarantee you a win.
"There are five season-ending injuries but we will get Daniel [Saifiti] and fingers crossed Eddy [Edrick Lee] if we are in finals. If we hang on to that grit and get better in a couple of areas we will be a hard footy team to knock off in finals."
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O’Brien said half Mitchell Pearce was outstanding in a beaten side after accepting his previous performance was below par.
"All week he has taken everything on board and took it all on his shoulders with the kicking and execution from last week, as good captain’s do, but he certainly wasn’t on his own last week," he said.
"I thought he was excellent tonight and dangerous, especially leading into half-time where he threatened that middle."