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Reality check sparked Knights attitude change

It was the loss which sparked a change in attitude.

A heavy defeat at the hands of the Cronulla Sharks has acted as the catalyst to the nib Newcastle Knights tightening their defence.

Since the 38-point pumping three weeks ago, the Knights convincingly downed the Parramatta eels and fell two-points short of toppling the Sydney Roosters.

The new steely edge was highlighted by several big efforts against the Roosters.

A bone rattling tackle from Slade Griffin on Isaac Liu was just one example of the team's commitment.

According to lock Mitch Barnett, the change is no fluke.

"We're making sides work a lot harder," Barnett said.

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"Since the Sharks game, we've really had an attitude change and we've been putting more work into our defence and sides are finding it a lot harder to get across the line."

This week will be no different when the Knights host the Melbourne Storm at McDonald Jones Stadium on Sunday.

While all eyes will be on Kalyn Ponga and Billy Slater, the Knights are blessed with speed in key positions.

There's no denying Ponga is a freakish talent who can create excitement, but he's not the only one with tricks up his sleeve.

A link man with all the tools, the fullback's ability to float around the back has been one of the Knights' greatest assets in 2018, but according to Barnett, he's not the only player providing the x-factor.

"He's not the only one who can do that sort of stuff, we've got Connor who's blessed with speed as well," Barnett said.

"It's great to know we've got that speed and skill to really get us on the front and pull a big play out when we need to and they've done that at times this year.

"It's a team sport and we all need to do our job for them to work their magic."

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Having been called into Queensland camp late ahead of Origin, after Slater went down injured, Ponga has been knocking on the door for a start in the maroon jersey.

Sunday is one more opportunity for him to impress Queensland coach Kevin Walters before the side is named for game two, but while Ponga's abilities on-field are impressive, his teammate is most pleased with the person he is away from the field.

"He's got the talent but I like that he's real cool calm and collected off the field," Barnett said.

"He's got that ability to flick the switch as soon as he steps over the line to become professional and I think that says a lot about his character.

"He's never flustered and he always backs himself.

"When you've got footwork like him, you can do that. He's a great talent and we're grateful to have him in the club."