Refreshed and raring to go, nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown said a few days off has done his players the world of good.
“It was great that the players got to do a lot of individual positional work, plus their bodies got a chance to freshen up so they could train properly,” explained Brown.
“These bye periods give them a chance to recover and we look to get some good improvements at this stage of our development.”
Dane Gagai was the only Knight to get the call up for Origin this Wednesday, while the Melbourne Storm have a list of big names set to play.
The Knights coach has no doubt they’ll be able to back up.
“For the last dozen years or so, Melbourne have had plenty of players in Origin so they would be pretty good at preparing for it,” commented Brown.
“They have key players that take part for Queensland... but they’ve been doing it for a very long time so I don’t think it will affect their preparation.
“One of the things that really good Origin players have prided themselves on over the years is playing well at Origin and then backing up and playing well for their Club.”
Brown believes Gagai will be no exception.
“I would expect if Gags is fit, for him to play and for him to play well,” he said.
The Knights coach maintains the short turnaround isn’t expected to be an issue.
“When I was coaching St George, we had a number of players that liked to back up sooner rather than later, the Friday rather than the Saturday or Sunday,” Brown stated.
“You rarely see blokes come out of Origin, play and not compete well.
“They are in Origin because they’re generally better competitors than most.
“In Gags' case, hopefully he’ll back up and will put in a good performance.”
Either way, Brown is preparing for Melbourne’s Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Will Chambers to play on Friday.
“We will prepare for that and their style of play whether they are in the team or not,” said Brown.
“They have their contingency plan in place, but our general thought process is that all the Melbourne blokes will back up.”
Brown says he has also been looking at a few scenarios in case Gagai isn’t able to play.
“Brendan (Elliot) has trained and played there for four or five weeks but you have to have someone in your team that can back up there as well,” he explained.
“(Nathan) Rossy trained there a fair bit in the pre-season, it is a position he’d certainly like a shot at so we’ll just train the guys there and see how Gags pulls up and make a decision then.”
While it may be a battle of first place takes on last, the Knights have recorded some good performances against Melbourne in their recent encounters.
“We didn’t quite get the result we wanted but we certainly competed well and we’ll be disappointed if we don’t compete well when we get down there this week,” admitted Brown.
“We certainly did a good job on their key players for a long period of time."