While Friday’s result remains disappointing, nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown maintains it gave his side a real lesson in tough NRL footy.
The Knights were on the end of a 40-0 defeat by the Penrith Panthers in the round four encounter.
“Physically we’re weren’t probably as good as we’ve been in the first three games,” Brown commented.
“Their forwards really dominated and all their skilful players took over and gave us a real lesson.”
The physical encounter harbouring a few bumps and bruises along the way.
“One or two guys are a little bit doubtful this week,” explained Brown.
“Mitch Barnett will be in a little bit of doubt, Brock Lamb as well and Jacob Saifiti is going to have to pass concussion protocols.
“Danny Levi also has to pass concussion protocols so whether they tick all those boxes we’ll see; they’ll go through the process.
“We’ve got a few blokes that can come in if needed, Tupes (Anthony Tupou) is probably ready for a game now and there was a couple of performers in Reserve Grade that did well on the weekend.”
Despite the result, the Knights coach is confident Joe Wardle, who made his NRL debut and received Players’ Player, will continue to show his wares.
“Joe has been in rehab since he finished the year over in England and then when he came out here he obviously spent a fair big chunk in rehab as well,” Brown said.
“He’s certainly underdone but for his first hit out I think everyone agreed he’s going to be a good acquisition for us and the more he plays the better he’ll get.”
The key target for improvement is in defence.
“I don’t think our attitude and commitment is doubted but certainly our goal line defence needs to improve,” added Brown.
“Even though we had a lot of good parts in the first three games, our goal line defence and kick defence are two areas that aren’t at the level that we need to get to.
“We’ve got to keep working hard and over the course of time we’ve got to improve.
“When you’re physically not on your game when you play a side like Penrith, who have got a lot of good footy players and are a very good attacking side, you’re always going to get in trouble.”
Putting the loss behind them though, Brown is quickly turning focus to what they can do against last year’s premiers, Cronulla.
“Like Penrith, Cronulla’s recruitment has been very good over the past four or five years and they’ve got a lot of good footy players,” Brown said.
“Any time you’re playing those sides, if you physically don’t win the advantage line, the football players get too much time to play and it causes you a lot of trouble.
“We showed in the first three rounds a lot of our players are physically fair more capable than last year, it’s just a matter of being able to do it week in, week out.
“We’re far from a finished article….. We got the weekend wrong for whatever reason and we got our just rewards so we have to focus hard on doing what works for us and getting the right consistently for long periods.”
Brown admits ultimately the Knights are a young side that is still developing but has no doubt they’ll sharpen their skills as the season progresses.
“The weekend was a good lesson, if we don’t do certain things well what can happen to us,” added Brown.
“Whilst we’re happy that we were making good progress and there is a lot more positives for the players, there’s certainly a lot more work to do.”