After four satisfying wins to start the season, assistant coach Craig Sandercock has sat down with head coach Rick Stone to speak about their expectations coming into the Knights' Easter Saturday match against the St George Illawarra Dragons.
“Everyone knows that Tariq Sims is back this week,” Sandercock said.
“I suppose he’s really pumped up for the game?”
Stone replied, “He’s been a great addition to our squad in the summer."
“He’s trained really hard and has brought a lot of enthusiasm and work ethic to our squad.
“He has obviously been chomping at the bit for a few weeks now to play and he gets his go on Saturday night.
“Let’s just make sure he’s nice and settled in the first ten minutes, that’s important for him."
The Knights hope to replicate last weekend’s early lead at Hunter Stadium to relieve some pressure.
“It was a good win against the Panthers and I thought we played really well in patches and definitely in the first 20 minutes. What areas do we need to improve Stoney to get the chocolates against St George,” Sanderock asked.
Stone said, “We got a bit tired at the end.
“Our one-on-one tackles were far too many and our offloads really started to hurt us.
“We didn’t defend well enough and we didn’t finish off our sets the way we needed to at times.
“The work ethic is great and the boys are scrambling really hard for each other.
“Our goal line defence has been the backbone of our four wins to start with.
“When you’re doing that well, it holds you in good stead."
The Dragons go into Saturday's match following a big win over Manly last Saturday.
"Playing the Dragons this week and on paper they have a very good side,” Sandercock said.
“Trent Merrin is an Origin player and (Benji) Marshall and (Jason) Nightingale are New Zealand Internationals, so it won’t be easy there.
“How do you think we need to keep an eye on?"
Stone said, "They have a lot of good dangers starting with Dugan.
“I think there two edge back rowers, (Joel) Thompson and (Tyson) Frizell are really decent players and genuine line breakers and can make a bit of a difference.
“(Gareth) Widdop and Benji in the halves are two terrific players and little hooker Mitch Rein is dangerous out of dummy half and challenges through the middle.
“Merrin has his footwork and his offloads as well, so there’s a lot of dangerous players in the team.
“They have found a little bit of form in the last couple of weeks and will come to town with some confidence.”
After a quality training session on Wednesday and coming off the back of wins in all three grades, Sandercock expects positive results when the Knights return to Hunter Stadium.
"Is there anything we need to do differently to prepare for playing in the beautiful sunshine like we did last Saturday compared to 7.30 at night?,” Sandercock asked Stone.
Stone replied, “We’ll look at the weather I suppose; there are going to be some showers around the Hunter.
“We might get a touch of wet weather and maybe that will change our style of play slightly.
“But overall we’ll be going into a similar sort of plan and will manage the game and play nice and direct and with some purpose like we did last game.
“We are looking forward to Hunter Stadium hopefully growing in support and every time we put in a good performance on the board, I’d like to think some of the fans could bring some of their friends back and help us with our crowd numbers.”
Game day information
Saturday April 4 – Round 5 Alex McKinnon Cup
Newcastle Knights v St George Illawarra Dragons
Gates open: 5pm
Venue: Hunter Stadium