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Now or never: Ponga confident attack will step up under pressure

Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga is confident his team's struggling attack can fire under pressure in their elimination final against Parramatta in Rockhampton on Sunday.

The Knights have struggled to pile on points against sides this season, finishing the regular rounds with the second-worst attack in the competition ahead of only the last-placed Bulldogs.

Ponga and key halves Mitchell Pearce and Jake Clifford were given another opportunity to click in last week's loss to Brisbane but could only manage four points in the first half before Ponga and Pearce were taken from the field. 

However, Newcastle's gritty defence and ability to win closes matches is what has Ponga most enthused about playing in his fourth career finals game and possibly causing an upset against the more fancied Eels.

"The first half [last week] if we executed a few more things we're walking off the field happy," Ponga said on Tuesday.

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"In terms of our effort and structure there is some to improve but we're not too disappointed.

"I know personally [with] our attack we haven't quite nailed things but you win games off effort and hard work.

"I don't think we've played to our full potential yet or anywhere near. We've got to find a balance and that's what the best sides do. Obviously, we've got footy in us.

"If we nail a few more passes and a few other little things right we can go another level and another step.

"For me, it's about putting the footy in their hands at the right time and playing freely. Footy hasn't changed. Defence still wins and we want to be a good defensive team.

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"A lot of the finals are about effort. We do have to execute plays but I think the effort and that mentality gets you wins.

"We've got to make it click and the recipe to that is hard work. "

Ponga said he'll go into this year's finals series better prepared mentally after a shoulder injury that later required surgery messed with his build-up to the corresponding finals game with South Sydney last year.

"It's crazy what an injury can do to you mentally," he said.

"I didn't realise until I had the surgery afterward, looking back on my thought process throughout the week it probably did take some confidence out of me.

"I had one week so it was quite hard. This year I'm fit, I've had a couple of injuries but have got over the shoulder and groin.

"I think the [team] belief and confidence is higher than what it was last year and I think it's because of the hard work we've put in over the last eight weeks to get here.

"It's where you want to be. You don't want to be anywhere else but playing at this time."

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Former Newcastle captain Mitchell Pearce conceded the side's attack had been "clunky" throughout the season but had no doubt the Knights were capable of executing at their best on Sunday.

"As a group you want to find that extra edge, I know what needs to be done for us to improve," Pearce said.

"All you can focus on as a group coming into our private place which is in reviews and on the training paddock and keep working on our game to improve where we're at.

"I'm confident that we can produce enough this week for where we're at to win this game of footy and that's what the goal is."

 

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