Tony Butterfield: Time for Knights to dig deep

“Yeah,nah.” An irritating though handy neo-Aussie expression that well suits the Newcastle Knights this season. “Yeah” they go well in patches, but “nah”no chocolates. Nada!
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Quickly reviewing last week’s capitulation against the Dragons, like, who scores fivetries in 14 minutes? A team who have faced down all that adversity cared to rain down on them, season after frustrating season, and yet they find that nugget of ultra high performance? Where did that come from? I mean, “Yeah, yeah.”

Andthis is not a one-off. At the other end of the tactical spectrum, against premiership heavyweights the Storm in Melbourne this month, our Knights gave a 25-minute defensive exhibition for the ages. So desperately dogged, it’s yet to be topped this season. By any club. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

The big picture, regrettably, is that a game lasts 80 minutes. So“nah”, our team of rookies will continue to experience growing pains evolving neither smoothly nor symmetrically. But credit where it’s due. Small steps, you might say.

Which brings us into the bottom-of-the-table clash on Sunday against a Tigers club with only marginally more to growl about these past years. But, I expect, so important is this clashplayers will be at their best on both sides.

Desperately disappointed if I’m wrong, but I also anticipate the fight to avoid the ignominy of last placeto ignite a fire in both forward packs. This Brawl in the Basementof the ISC on Sunday will be compulsive viewing for sports fans of all persuasions.

As for the Knights, like last week, I think they’re specials. And they better play that way. Cause in front of thousands of the region’s hard-working miners and their families, anything less than total commitment and working your guts out for your mate will not be acceptable.

Soa chance to atone for last week,a chance to take on the Australian and NSW prop forwardand acrack at climbing out of the basement towards the lightthat must be there. If that doesn’t get at least the forwards primed, then we may as well pack up now.

See ya out there.

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The news Shaun Kenny-Dowell had signed with the Knights was welcome relief for a club struggling to divine its future. This appointment gets them a little closer to it.

The circumstances around his sacking and the legal question hanging over his head appear now to be consigned to SKD’s back story after the courts confirmedhim free to move on with his life.

How he got here may continue to be an irritation to some, but hot on the heels of Roosters teammateAidan Guerra, it’s pretty heady stuff for hope-starved Novocastrians.

Both are experienced campaigners at club and national level, with the bonus of SKD saddling up in a week or two. So I’m excited.

So much so, and with Knights fans eager to hear of more signings, I thought I’d have a crack at next year’s team as it might look, so far. I know it’s a bit like opening your presents before Xmas day, but I can’t wait to see how things will stack up.

The list below represents current players that I think pick themselves,new signingsanda wish list*.

Now that’s a team!

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The Blues players will simmer for a couple of weeks before they regroup at Lang Park on July 12.

Nothing compared to failure in two weeks, but seared into their mindswill be the pain on full-timein Sydney.

So what do they need to do between now and then to ensure the agony doesn’t revisit?My view is:not much.

Sure, it’s a grand finale, and the Queensland cauldron will be no place for the faint of heart. But it’s equally correct they’veheaded their rivals for 158 of the 160 minutes of play so far. Anddid they not successfully deflect the boisterous attentions of the hordes from the north in game one?

So it’s not impossible.

For me, if anything, concentration and mental toughness occupy the margins of victory here, and that is where they must be better to win:in their heads.

It wouldn’t hurt, either, if the refs held a decent 10 metres in defence this time. If they don’t, you can be sure the Blues won’t cop the same shabby treatment as last week.

I’ll be on.

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In a similar vein, the best joke I heard this week was from Storm master tacticianCraig Bellamy.

Sharing a moment with compliant media hacks, Bellyachebemoaned the raw deal his players were getting from referees this year. Talk about lol. It’s a side-splitter.

For mine, to be honest, they deliberately cause most penalties they give awayand should wear a heap more. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good yarn.

Bellamy is nothing if not competitive, and I bet his backroom tactical gurus would have sat around the heater rubbing their hands when the chance came to comment on the record.

At the very least, is it not subliminal pressure on the refs to cut them some slack?

At the other end of the spectrum is it mild intimidation? Or perhaps, more innocently, he simply feels his players are good boys, misunderstood and unfairly targeted.

Whatever it is, it will put pressure on referees when presiding over Storm games.

And that, I think, is the point. No wonder he’s the best. Ya gotta laugh!