While coach Rick Stone is aware that the Newcastle Knights' position is less than ideal approaching Round 13 against competition surprise packet the Canberra Raiders, he’s detected valuable improvements in the Knights’ match against the New Zealand Warriors.
The Knights presented a tidier contest against the Warriors with improved statistics of an 89 per cent set completion rate and a reduced error count.
“There were plenty of positives, absolutely,” Stone told the media on Monday when asked about the loss.
"We performed well and completed sets well. It was probably the soft defensive lapses that really hurt us.
"We asked enough questions and made as many meters as the Warriors and they are traditionally a tough team to match in the metres stakes.
"That’s probably a positive for us. Our completion rate was pretty high."
In the injury-marred match that saw the side already missing five of its mainstays, Tyrone Roberts injured his ankle four minutes into the game.
“There were probably six key players not playing in he game,” Stone reflected.
“There were some makeshift halves when you think about, Tyler Randell and Carlos Tuimavave who was playing his first game for the Club.
“Now Carlos has played a game and did particularly well, I think he’ll feel more settled and confident and more ready for the game on the weekend.”
The coach is facing much brighter prospects this weekend with the the expected return of captain Kurt Gidley who’s named to take Roberts' position in the halves.
“I think he’ll help for sure. He’s an inspirational player for us and makes a difference every time her plays for us,” Stone said.
“That’s a big plus and we are playing back at home which will be good."
After an explosive beginning to the season, experienced prop Kade Snowden will also be eagerly welcomed back the side.
“Kade's neck and back was a bit stiff last week and he didn’t have much range,” Stone said.
“That’s freed up a little bit more and he’s trained pretty solidly this morning.
“I have no doubts about him playing.”
While Dane Gagai suffered a cork in his left calf on Sunday, he’s also confident he’ll take his place at number one.
“He has a cork in the calf and we need to see him training and moving around to play on the weekend,” he said.
“That’s a big one for us. Dane has been great over the last couple of weeks and he is continually dangerous every time he got his hands on the footy.
“We will sort something out if he’s not available. Well give him right up to the game.”
Come Saturday at 3pm at Hunter Stadium, Stone said the Knights attention will fall on shutting down the Raiders’ ball carriers.
“They have some real sharp attacking players," he added.
“Blake Austin is going great for them at the moment, they have a lot of big forwards in their pack and they role through the middle pretty well and get their metres up."
As the men in red and blue return home, they’ll feed off the extra motivation to earn a much needed two points.
“No team’s any different for us at the moment. We just to get closer to playing our best on both sides of the footy in attack and defence,” Stone said.
“It’s a shorter week considering we travelled and we get this training session on Friday.
“It’s not ideal to be where we are, particularly after the start we’ve had.
“We understand the first four games we could have probably won or lost each one and there’s another four games we could have won or lost quite easily in the last few.
“That’s the NRL and you have to play up to your potential and we are not a superstar field side so we need all our players doing their best to get a result.
"We are concentrating on this week and then get a freshen up week after the bye, then we are back to doing it all again."
If you plan to attend Saturday's game, check out the Round 13 game day information.