Newcastle Knights NSW Cup coach Rick Stone has credited a shift in attitude and personnel for his side’s recent form reversal.
Speaking after Sunday’s impressive 38-12 victory over Canterbury-Bankstown at No.2 Sportsground, Stone said his team's self-belief is back thanks to a greater focus on defence.
The Knights' Cup outfit has also been boosted by the return of key players Timana Tahu (knee), Chanel Mata'utia (ribs) and Pat Mata'utia (ribs) in recent weeks.
"Our team has been better in the last few weeks and maybe our attitude to defend has as well," Stone says.
"We’ve been leaking way too many points in the last month.
"We probably didn’t help ourselves on a few occasions against the Bulldogs with a few errors, but I thought we defended our line pretty well.
"We’ve started to get a few players back like Timana and Chanel, so we’ve got a decent balanced backline with a couple of classy players in the halves.
"It’s also about our forwards strength and that’s finally starting to come back together."
The Knights may have got the points against the Bulldogs, but they didn't walk away completely unscathed.
Lock and skipper Matt Hilder suffered a hamstring strain, while halfback Michael Dobson left the field with suspected fractured ribs.
On the plus side though, Stone is expecting barnstorming bookend Toka Likiliki to return from a hamstring injury for Sunday's clash against the Wentworthville Magpies at Newcastle's No.2 Sportsground.
The Knights have also been strengthened by the inclusion on Tahu in the back-row, a move Stone says has been prompted by NRL coach Wayne Bennett.
"I think the coach (Wayne) has also got some ambition of him being a bit of a utility off the bench in that role," he confirms.
"So I’ve had a bit of a chat to Timana and he is all up for it.
"That was his first little initiation there with Pat Mata’utia coming back into the team late it gave us that opportunity.
"Timana went pretty good though.
"He got some early ball and in situations that he’d prefer, while he also made a couple of line breaks and had some nice offloads that led to tries.
"He is still getting used to the conditioning side of things and the workload, but he has done it before."
The Knights' NSW Cup side will look to continue their winning ways when they take on Wentworthville at No.2 Sportsground on Sunday from 3pm.
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