Coach's Say: Round 9
nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown believes the South Sydney Rabbitohs are one of the better teams in the NRL competition so far this season and will be hard to beat come Friday night.
"Their position on the ladder doesn't quite show it... I think offensively they're playing a hell of a lot of footy," Brown said.
"They've probably gone from playing that real barge and bash style, which works so well for them and won them a grand final, to probably an opposite style of footy.
"With Cody Walker, GI (Greg Inglis), Gags (Dane Gagai) and Alex Johnston at fullback, we have four Koori kids who are really instinctive players, so anything that is loose or there's broken field, those type of guys always end up in the best position available to open it up.
"When you look at their stats it suggests they are the best attacking side in the competition."
Brown had high praise for former Knight Gagai, and knows he'll be a tricky customer to contain.
"Gags will really be welcomed by the home crowd and obviously after the game, the guys will be looking to catch up with him," he added.
"Unless he has an injury I reckon he'll play well into his 30s and I still believe one day he might come back.
"I think the Burgess boys are back to where they were first two or three years they played.
"They look like they're back carrying the ball well, very error free, and I think Souths would be very happy with their form.
"I don't think it's a coincidence that Tom and George are playing really well and that the team is going really well also."
This week veteran forward Jacob Lillyman could be back in the mix following the birth of his second child, but Brown stated there wouldn't be too many changes from last week's squad.
The Knights coach maintains they fought a hard battle against the Manly Sea Eagles, despite it being an ugly match.
"I thought we tried really hard, but I think there have been games where we have played a lot better," Brown explained.
"We found a way to hang in there and try hard, but some blokes weren't quite where they would have liked to be, but the effort was good."
"One thing that hurt us last week was our kicking game which probably didn't provide us with an opportunity.
"Manly had 58 per cent possession, but if we could find another try with our attack and stop one more with our defence, it would make us a pretty hard team to beat."
Brown admits the new halves combination of Jack Cogger and Connor Watson will take time to fire on ally cylinders, but early signs are promising.
"It's understandable because Connor has been out for a month and it was Jack's first game at halfback, but I'd like to think we will have a little bit more flow," said Brown.
"I think that will come with Jack being more confident and hopefully Connor can be a little bit more dominant as well."
He also had plenty of praise for his young fullback Kalyn Ponga, and hooker Slade Griffin, who are impressing on all fronts.
"Kalyn is young and he's got a fair bit on his shoulders but he seems to be handling that well and Slade is just starting to find his way as a starting hooker, and the more he plays, the more respect he gets from the boys," Brown stated.
"He's starting to understand he's a very important part in our team and the traits he learnt at Melbourne, in regards to commitment and effort, has brought a lot to our Club.
"Overall we need a little bit more responsibility collectively from Kalyn, Connor and Slade and when Mitchell's not there, we don't want to just lump the responsibility on just Jack."
Meanwhile, Brown admits he'll be watching the A League grand final closely on Saturday night and knows it will be a good weekend of sport for Novocastrians.
"When you're involved in a community like Newcastle, you want to see all sporting teams do well," Brown maintained.
"For Ernie to come in and to make some good recruitment decisions and adopt a style of play which has helped them get to the grand final, it shows what good coaching and recruitment can do.
"I'm certainly an avid soccer fan from my days living in England and the Jets going well is great for the community."