As the Newcastle Knights edge closer to their Round 9 match against the Manly Sea Eagles, head coach Rick Stone took Knights Insider questions from the Club's Members and fans from the Gold Coast where he was coaching the Fijian representative team.
Kellie Davis via Twitter: What has been your biggest challenge after taking back over as coach and what sort of influence has Bedsy been?
Rick Stone: The biggest challenge I suppose has been a bit of consistency. We started off in the first four weeks pretty well and our effort in our goalline defence was really good. I think it’s deteriorated a little bit in the last few weeks and that’s shown in our results.
Bedsy (Danny Buderus) has been great around the players and particularly with our young hookers. He’s a really positive person to have around the place. He has a wealth of knowledge and brings plenty of experience as well.
Jeremy Li via Twitter: Hi Rick, how do you fire up the boys on game day?
There’s a combination of things during the week. But honestly, I think a fair bit of it has to come from within. We challenge our individuals about the standards that we have set down in the pre-season and what we want to stand for. And one of those is really about our family and our fans and doing them proud. That’s a really important ingredient to our group. We have to try to adhere to that every particular week and we all know we all have a big responsibility within the community.
Aaron Morrow via Facebook: Hi Rick, we have a real workhorse type forward pack. Do you think this could be balanced with encouraging more ball playing by the forwards?
RS: We have a lot of good ball players in the pack and definitely within Kade Snowden, Jeremy Smith and Dave Fa’alogo and a couple of those blokes.
When we do play with the footy a little bit in the forwards, I think we challenge defensive lines a bit better. It’s something we will continue to look to do in the future.
Brent Cavendish via Facebook: I believe Mullen plays his best footy when forced to take the leadership role as captain, any thought on making him permanent captain?
RS: Not at this stage. Kurt is our captain for the remainder of this year. Depending on what he decides to do, I suppose we’ll make a decision around that. If Kurt doesn’t play, there are a couple of candidates and Jarrod will be one of them.
Justin Peterson via Facebook: We have two potential stars in the Saifiti brothers. Are they in your plans moving forward next year?
RS: Definitely. I’m in the Fiji camp and have the boys with me. They get to play in a test match pretty early in their careers. They have been great in the NYC so far. They have a fair way to go in development both physically and mentally and with their skills but they are definitely heading in the right direction. I think we are in the process at the Club at the moment of tying those boys up long term.
@rangdiddy via Twitter: Do you see Jake Mamo as the long term replacement for Kurt Gidley at fullback?
RS: There’s every chance. He has some great traits and a couple you need for fullback like a good engine in the the fitness stakes and he has that. He has some genuine speed and courage. He’s the first one to admit he has a little bit to learn in the ball playing department, but he’s willing to have a crack at that.
@jenko_seven via Twitter: Kurt has always been regarded as a great bench impact player, would you make the tough call if it was the best for the team?
RS: I think I would, but at this point in time, having Kurt on our team for the full 80 minutes is still a positive for our team at the moment.
Jace Muller via Facebook: After the Parramatta game you said that you were prepared to wield the axe for the game against Cowboys and then played virtually the same side. Why was this?
RS: I thought the journos took me out of context a little bit there about wielding the axe. I don’t think I was ever talking about wielding the axe. There were definately people that I noticed and whether that was leaving them out, or challenging them a little bit to get a bit more out of their game. We need to challenge some guys in the NSW Cup so they can show us they are ready to step up into the main grade. We have had a little bit of that with Joe Tapine and Pat Vaivai in the last few weeks.
The main thing is, if you’re going to make replacements you have to make sure it’s going to make your team better.
@jr_buff via Twitter: How close is Levi or Feeney to getting a start in 1st grade?
RS: Danny Levi is a really good player and has done a really good job in the NYC so far in the first eight weeks. He’s carrying a little shoulder injury at the moment that we are just trying to manage. I have some hopes of him playing first grade sometime this year. Hopefully once he gets himself balanced up after this rep game on the weekend, he’ll show us that he’s ready.
Jaelen Feeney is coming back from a little elbow injury that he received in the trials, but he’s getting better every week. He’s gaining some confidence. His physical part of his game has made improvements. He’ll definitely come into contention if he keeps playing the way he is.
Miroslav Bocko via Facebook: Hi Rick, just wondering when Carlos Tuimavawe will get a run?
RS: Carlos is probably in the same boat as Feeney where he had a little injury to start with and missed a couple of games. He’s slowly improving on his form each week and is looking at being a great ball running five eighth. I think he is the first to admit again that he needs to improve on his decision making and his short kicking. We will work with that with him. He’s a player that we feel will play some first grade at some stage during the year. He just need to keep improving like everyone else.
@mickmarteene via Twitter: Will the Knights be in the recruitment market for 2016? Any thoughts on potential players the Knights might target?
RS: Hopefully we will be in the recruitment market. It’s becoming increasingly harder and harder with players’ salaries continuing to escalate. We know with losing Beau Scott, we’re looking to add another quality forward to our pack for sure. Hopefully there will be another one or two players. We need to add two to three players to our roster each year and that’s still our philosophy this year.