Experienced forward Jeremy Smith has heaped praise on the Newcastle Knights’ youngest players for holding their own in a trying match against the St George Illawarra Dragons on Sunday.
With an injury depleted forward pack and prop Kade Snowden forced from the field in the 12th minute due to a concussion, the side’s green players stepped up to the plate.
“It probably wasn’t the way we wanted to start the game,” Smith reflects.
“It certainly made it hard without him (Snowden) there, but I just think we lost our way and they turned the heat up on us and we couldn’t go with them.
“We didn’t have much size coming off the bench.
“In the second half they just came through the middle and we needed a big forward to carry the ball first and we lacked that a bit.
“We managed to claw our way back, but in the second half, we left a bit to be desired.
“I thought in the first half we were really good."
After a solid first half, error and lack of execution soon crept into the Knights’ game consolidating the issue further, but Smith believes the side’s youngest players faced up to the challenge admirably.
In what was hardly the result the Knights aimed for, it was still an unforgettable experience for Nathan Ross and Lachlan Fitzgibbon on debut.
“Rossy came in on the wing and I thought he was outstanding and Lachie in the middle, it was no easy task,” he added.
“Playing in the middle is no easy task, but I thought he (Fitzgibbon) held his gloves up well and hung in there.
“It was a pretty tough time when he came out and I think we only had the ball for a couple of sets and all we had was defence.
“I thought he went really well.”
Despite the heavy defeat, Smith believes the side can take confidence out of the match.
“In the second half we missed a few tackles and they got a roll on and it sort of hard to get the momentum back," he said.
“We do have stuff to work on but also to build on too."
The Knights have already shifted attention to their next test, the third placed Sydney Roosters at Hunter Stadium on Sunday in the NRL’s Indigenous Round.
“It doesn’t get any easier this week with the Roosters coming up here and they are in pretty good form too,” he said.
“They have some big boppers that we’ll have to take care of.
“It’s all a working process.
“It’s a challenge just trying to get yourself mentally and physically prepared for what’s coming the following week.
“Whether or not you can get yourself up is all upon yourself.”
The forward also believes the Knights have adjusted well to Danny Buderus taking the reigns as interim head coach.
“I think its been good. He has kept it simple and we’ve worked pretty hard this week,” Smith said.
“All in all, I thought the week was good.
“The closer you get to the game he’s trying to pump you up and give you belief.
“We’ll be working hard again this week because it’s on again.
“They (Roosters) are intimidating and will be out there to try to bully us around, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”