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It's been an extremely difficult week for the Newcastle Knights in the wake of Alex McKinnon's serious spinal injury, but forward Jeremy Smith insists the team remain focused heading into Sunday's crucial clash against Cronulla.  

Speaking after the team's final training session at Wests Mayfield on Saturday, Smith admitted it has been a tough few days for the players coming to terms with the implications of McKinnon's condition. 

While Alex will be in the back of the Knights' minds when they run onto Hunter Stadium on Sunday, the veteran forward believes the team can't afford to let their emotions get in the way of winning the match. 

"I suppose everyone controls that (emotion) a bit differently," Smith says.

"I’m not sure what is going to happen and we’ll sort of have to play it as it comes.

"If there is, they are going to have to handle it and get their emotions in check.

"I think everyone has been training well though.

"As well as what’s happened to Alex, we want to do it for ourselves and the Club.

"We’ve got to get our season off to a good start somewhere along the line and there is no better day than Sunday to do it.

"It probably will (probably mean more than two points) after the game, but leading up to the game we’ve still got a job to do. 

"With Alex in the back of our heads, it’s certainly going to be a bit of a driving force there.

"But it’s a game that we need to win for ourselves to get our season off and going."

Asked if he would want to face the Knights this weekend given the current circumstances, Smith said: “Oh probably not.

“But they (Cronulla) got their own problems down there and we are sort of fighting the same battle up here.

"They haven’t won a game yet and neither have we, so it’s certainly going to be a tester for both teams."

As a former Shark who spent two seasons in the Shire from 2011-12, Smith knows Cronulla will be fired up for Sunday's match. 

It's why he insists the Knights must turn up ready for a tough match.  

"It’s always good playing against your old club and trying to get one over them early is going to be a big help for us," he says.

"They’ve got something to play for just like us.

"They haven’t won a game yet and neither have we, so it’s just going to be one of those games and there will be one loser."

In order for the Knights to win, Smith says they must improve their discipline.

"We have to improve our ball control and we are giving away too many penalties," he admits.

"He (Wayne) hasn’t been too happy.

"We gave away a fair few penalties down there (Melbourne). Just silly little penalties, like hands on the ball.

"Like I said, if we can cut that out and hold the ball, then we can go a long way to winning."

Meanwhile, Smith says he is gradually regaining confidence after injuring his right knee in the Club's final trial against Canberra in Tamworth in late February. 

"Yeah it (the knee) is coming along," he says.

"The first few weeks weren’t too crash hot, but like I said it has been four or five weeks since it has happened and I’m starting to feel my way back into the groove again.

"The coaching staff here do a great job of lightening your load during the week.

"It’s starting to get better slowly." 

Darius Boyd trained strongly on Saturday however 1-17 will be finalised one hour prior to kick off on Sunday.