Captain Kurt Gidley and interim head coach Danny Buderus spoke at the post match press conference following Sunday's loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons.
According to Buderus, it was a mental barrier the Newcastle Knights were unable to overcome in their match at Jubilee Stadium.
While the first half effort held plenty of promise, the red and blue failed to maintain the same defensive stability in the second stanza which allowed the Dragons to exploit that weakness.
“The first half was fun,” Buderus said.
“Then we were 12-0 down losing our strike front rower (Kade Snowden) and I was blooding a couple of guys off the bench that were going to play in the middle- Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Joe Tapine.
“I knew there was going to be a tough challenge ahead.
“They hung tough and with the weight of possession (against them) in the second half.”
Buderus said the ability to push through the pain barrier was a vital skill and something many players would develop with more experience in the NRL.
“We need to get the guys in that head space were they can compete with themselves before they compete with the team,” he said.
“It’s important with another five weeks coming up.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction from the point of hanging in some tries."
Buderus identified a number of times in the game when the Knights pounced on opportunities but luck didn’t swing their way.
“Jake Mamo could have slipped one over in the corner and we could have gone close to getting in front,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep positive.
“Whatever you find is in front of you, you have to deal with it."
The Knights' interim head coach was overall proud of the effort shown from a number of young players who were new to playing first grade football.
“Some guys are just learning on the run,” he said.
“We are a squad that obviously has a fair few players out.
“There are some older guys trying to hold it together with some young guys and it’s tough after the week we’ve had.
“We just have to keep hanging in.
“In the second half you could see the guys sort of stuttering and their body language, you could see them sapping.
“It’s disappointing when you see some mistakes from the boys and they are just killing themselves.
“That’s a shame for all involved because you know how hard they are working to play well.
“It’s just learning on the run and they are shooting themselves in the foot a lot of times.”
Reflecting on the second half, captain Kurt Gidley agreed the Knights defence was lacklustre.
“Scoring points hasn’t been a problem during the year, it’s defending and defending errors,” he said.
“In the first half we didn’t start great so we put plenty of energy into winning that momentum back and then we lost it and won it back.
“The first half was a real arm wrestle and I was proud of the way we fought our way back into the first half.
“The energy and talk was really good at half time.
“We just didn’t do that in the second half.
“We didn’t get out of our half it felt like.
Gidley also detected the need for the players mental toughness and resolve to improve when games get tough.
“The biggest thing about being a first grader is the mental game. We are all physically fit and strong, it’s the mental barrier that experienced players have,” he said.
“That’s biggest learning thing for our team and our club and as a young guy it’s about being able to push yourself mentally past where you think you can go."
While the loss was disappointing for Buderus who was at the helm for the first time, he viewed the game as a step in the right direction to bringing about change.
“I was really pleased with how we prepared I though we had great buzz about us going into the game,” he said.
“The boys kept fighting but they could only fight so much.
“It’s hard work in the middle when you’re young and they are coming at you again.
“It’s not fun at times, but what is fun is when you come through the other side of it and realize you’ve challenged yourself and you’ve got the job done.
“That’s what the fun part of the game was."
But the future is promising according the Club legend with the side’s young talent expected to improve and grow with more experience in the NRL.
“It’s a good foundation for the next five weeks, but we are talking the next year as well and the year after that,” he said.
“That’s when some of those guys are going to hit their straps.”