Mitchell Pearce describes coach Adam O'Brien as one of the best signings in Knights' history and believes his finals experience can get the side back on track.
The Knights will make their first finals appearance for seven years when they take on South Sydney at ANZ Stadium next Sunday after hopes of playing before 15,000 home fans in Newcastle evaporated on Friday night.
Newcastle 36-6 thumping by Gold Coast and the Rabbitohs record 60-8 defeat of Sydney Roosters resulted in the Knights finishing in seventh place.
O'Brien has expressed concerns about his team's lack of consistency and the Knights haven't won away from home since their 20-18 victory against Souths in round 10.
"Adam has done a huge job this year," Pearce said. "He is probably the best signing the club has had in a long, long time and he has really improved us as players.
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"Coming in, Adam has bought a lot of new systems and structures and a real tough edge to us. I think that is the main ingredient that has helped to put us in this position; that toughness and resilience we have adapted to our footy.
"We have still got a lot of evolution [remaining] in that but I think we have come a long way.”
O'Brien took charge of the Knights this season in his first head coaching role after last year assisting Trent Robinson to plot a second consecutive premiership for the Roosters.
He had been at the Storm for 11 seasons before that was an assistant to Craig Bellamy for five years from 2014.
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While there, Melbourne made three grand final appearances and won the premiership in 2017.
Besides Pearce, Kangaroos prop David Klemmer and veteran second-rower Aidan Guerra, few other Knights players have been played in finals.
"He [O'Brien] came here with a really good perspective and a lot of experience in how to get to the finals and how to win big games," injured Newcastle playmaker Connor Watson said.
"He has done it for over 10 years at the Storm and the Roosters. I think he has been in the last three grand finals so having him here has been massive.
"Adam is really good with us, he knows that we have to get better at being more consistent and finding that hunger and intent to win."
The players say O'Brien set high expectations for his players at training and in games from the moment he took over and insisted they hold each other accountable.
He also showed the way with his work ethic and wanted the Knights to return to the playing style that the club was built on, through the likes of Paul Harragon, Tony Butterfield, Mark Sargeant, Danny Buderus, Ben Kennedy and the Johns brothers, Andrew and Matthew.