Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien believes his team has definitely improved since their round one game against the Warriors only a month ago.
The Knights face the New Zealand side for the second time this season at McDonald Jones Stadium tomorrow – in round one the Knights lost across the ditch to the side 20-12.
Adam O’Brien said they’re already a different team compared to round one.
“I think both teams will naturally be better, I thought we showed a lot of fight, we went through some stuff in that round one game but I think we are defending much better and attacking much better since that round one game.
“I do feel like we’re on the right track, we’ve just got to stay on it.
“There’s still some improvement in us. I was very honest with the group, we’re leaking a lot of points at the moment, more than we’d like to particularly in the first ten minutes we’ve found ourselves a couple of tries down early and then we’ve kicked into gear so we’ve identified a couple of areas of defense that we want to continue to improve.”
The Newcastle side continues to be plagued by injuries with players like Phoenix Crossland moved from pivot to post where he’s needed.
Tomorrow he’ll play five-eighth in place of Tyson Gamble who will miss the clash against the Warriors due to concussion protocols.
“He’s risen to the occasion in the past. I remember the game against Manly here a couple of seasons ago where he did exactly that. Similar prep leading in and he’s been unreal for us this year. He never whinges, gets on with wherever we put him, he just wants to get out there and compete.
“Him and Kurt Mann, very similar, just with what we’ve been through over the past couple of years we’ve had some curve balls thrown at us in terms of injuries and guys unavailable so to have players like that and Tyson Gamble – they’re footy players, you can chuck them out anywhere, we’re very fortunate to have Phoenix and Kurt tomorrow night.”
Kalyn Ponga is expected to be back playing by round eight when Newcastle face the Cowboys. Kalyn has been back home for a week after returning from Canada to undergo additional clinical and advanced neurophysiological assessment after his fourth head knock in ten months.
“First and foremost it’s great that the trip was a success and he has some peace of mind, literally.
“There’s a number of things that need to be ticked off between now and then and we’ll be really thorough as a club but he’s excited, he wants to play,” Adam said.
It’ll be a big afternoon of football at McDonald Jones Stadium. Not only are the Knights playing the Warriors at 6:15pm, but the Jersey Flegg cup side are taking on the Sydney Roosters at 1:45pm after a loss to the Sea Eagles last weekend, and the NSW Cup game today will see the Knights battle it out with the Warriors in a curtain raiser before the main game kicks off.
“Our pathways have been great. We’ve debuted a number of guys already this year that have come through that system so its great to see we’re getting some success there,” Adam said.