The nib Newcastle Knights take on the St George Illawarra Dragons this Saturday at McDonald Jones Stadium.
Last time they met, the Dragons staged a comeback in the second half to edge out the Knights by just four points in Round 16.
“It was a day where we played some terrific footy and it was a day where we had a period in that second half when we were poor and that’s been fairly common this year,” coach Nathan Brown said on Tuesday.
“The Dragons game we were in a really good position and unfortunately we didn’t come up with the points, but we look forward to the contest again after they had a good win on the weekend.”
Brown maintains the Knights should take plenty of confidence out of last week’s clash against the Sydney Roosters.
“We’ll go into the game and we should feel that we really matched a big Roosters pack and we just need to tidy up one or two key parts of the game at crucial stages,” Brown commented.
“If we can nail one or two things at the right time, we can get ourselves in a position to do ok.”
Defending kicks to the wing will be one focus against the Dragons.
“Their tries from kicks, the Dragons sit in the top handful of teams in the competition,” Brown said.
“On the weekend they got three or four and we obviously had the three against us so it will be an area we need to be good at and particularly with (Gareth) Widdop back in form.
“Some outside backs with the Dragons are good jumpers so we’re going to have to be good in that area.
“We need to be defending well before it and our pressure has to be good from the middle.”
The Knights coach admits Gareth Widdop will be an important player for the Dragons.
“Out of all the halves in the competition, he’s one that is in the top handful of try assists whether it be passing or kicking or scoring himself,” stated Brown.
“He is one of a number of players we’ll have to be good against.
“A lot of the Dragons momentum has been built on their good forward pack and if our middles do a good job, it will give us a much better chance of controlling Gareth.”
Meanwhile Brown has welcomed the three-year signing of youngster Connor Watson to the Club next year.
“It is a great signing for us,” said Brown.
“We can offer him some playing stability and with the rest of our squad that we are assembling, I think he can grow and continue to improve over time.
“He is young but he’s been at a good club and has probably done three full pre-seasons now and by the end of this year would have probably hit 40 games.
“He is not experienced but he’s not a rookie either so he’s a great competitor, he’s a great threat with the ball and he’s a great kid and we’ve got a lot of hope Connor will help take the Club forward over time.”
In sad news, experienced forward Rory Kostjasyn announced his retirement from the game after sustaining a complex throat injury in the pre-season.
“It is disappointing Rory didn’t get on the field,” Brown added.
“From a leadership point of view and what he has provided for the younger guys at video sessions and at training, I still consider him a good signing.
“Going forward with the Club he is taking up a coaching role now which will involve a lot more time with the younger players but he’ll still work and assist with some of the older players.”
Brown said they are keeping an eye open for a suitable replacement.
“We met with a number of players that can play hooker so we certainly need a replacement for Rory and whether we can get someone that can provide the same leadership, I don’t think that will happen,” Brown explained.
“I would like to think Aiden Guerra will bring that and I’d like to think over the course of our recruiting, we’ll find another player who can do that.”
Meanwhile Brown has confirmed utility Joe Wardle will be at the Club until the end of the season.
“Joe has found it a little bit difficult being away from home but where it all ends up, we’re not sure,” he said.
“The idea of Joe coming this year was to get his body right and get him ready for next year but he’s contributing well and we expect that for the rest of the year.”