Knights prop David Klemmer.

The big bloke with the shaved head was sore but smiling last Saturday morning.

Hurting, but happy.

Despite his post-game aches and pains, Knights prop David Klemmer was grinning from ear to ear as he walked into a recovery session at their Mayfield training base.

In his first game for his new team on his new home ground the night before, the NSW and Australian pack leader had run for 218 metres and made 33 tackles in 65 minutes in a man of the match performance that inspired Newcastle's 14-8 victory over Cronulla.

"Walking in to recovery, the hammies and the back were a bit sore but I love waking up like that the next morning after footy," Klemmer told a media conference in Newcastle on Wedensday.

"It feels like you've done something, so it was great to feel like that. In my mind, that's what footy feels like again … because that's what it's all about."

The challenge now for Klemmer and fellow forward recruits James Gavet and Tim Glasby is to reproduce that effort against Penrith at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.

Klemmer and company will lock horns with his current and former NSW and Australian team-mates Reagan Campbell-Gillard and James Tamou, who will lead a Penrith side determined to make amends for their 20-12 loss at home to arch rivals Parramatta last Sunday.

"We laid a platform but it's only a start. We haven't earned any praises yet, we're still learning, and we've got to build on that week in, week out and keep learning as a side," Klemmer said.

"We can't hang our hats on that sort of performance. We've got to keep progressing as a footy side.

"Me and 'Reg' [Campbell-Gillard] have obviously played together in those sides, and we've played against each other. He's a competitor and it's always a great contest against him and big Jimmy Tamou, so we know we've got a big job on our hands this week.

"I don't think they've got to worry about me too much. There's other great players around me, so I'm sure they're going to prepare well because last week they didn't win, and we know they're going to try to come up here and beat us at home."

Though Klemmer received most of the plaudits after the victory over the Sharks, he praised the efforts of Gavet and Glasby and the bench forwards who supported the starters.

Daniel Saifiti will miss the game against the Panthers because of knee and foot injuries but Klemmer has just as much confidence in Herman Ese'ese, who will replace Saifiti in the bench rotation.

"Those guys were great. Timmy Glasby, coming out of that Melbourne system, you can see why he's such a good player and he plays Origin footy," he said.

"Big Jimmy, he's been great at the Warriors and he's come over here and he's done his job as well.

"I'm very lucky that both those blokes are on my side. As I said, we've built a platform and we're trying to keep building on that as a pack."

Knights prop James Gavet.
Knights prop James Gavet. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

Gavet said he and Glasby were happy to play a supporting role and do whatever was necessary.

He did not post the same sort of stats, logging 24 tackles and 50 metres in 31 minutes, but Knights skipper Mitchell Pearce told the Newcastle Herald that Gavet was the best player on the field in the first 20 minutes, and hurt the Cronulla forwards when he hit them.

"I knew 'Klem' would say something like that because he's always trying to uplift others, but he does deserve to be put on a pedestal like that because he's a freak," Gavet told NRL.com.

"Klem's a first-class act, and everyone knows that but he needs a supporting cast too … You can't have 13 Klems on the field, so it's up to me and 'Glas' to help him wherever we can help him.

"It might not be in metres made or tackles made but it could just be our talk or how we carry ourselves on the field when it gets a bit frantic, just to make sure that everyone knows that we're not feeling that way and we're still in the fight.

"That's a role we have to play sometimes, then there will be other games where we need to stand up and do other things stats-wise, and make a lot more tackles or runs.

"It all comes down to what the team needs because at the end of the season, it's the team that wins the comp. It's the team that wins the premiership."

The former Bulldogs, Wests Tigers, Broncos and Warriors hard man, who is in the first year of a two-year deal with the Knights, said Newcastle's middle forwards must roll up their sleeves for another physical challenge against the Panthers on Saturday.

"We're coming up against another strong pack – these guys are a bit bigger – but we're not going to take any game for granted. We have to make sure we best our opposition in the middle," Gavet said.

"As most people know, it's a pretty simple game.

"It's a simple thing to do, but it's a hard thing to do. You've got to run hard and tackle hard and make sure you stick together and stay real tight, and everything else runs off the back of that.

"The word 'foundation' gets chucked around, but that's pretty much it. If your middles aren't going forward, then your stars out on the edge and out the back don't really see the ball to do the amazing and wonderful things that they can do."

Apart from establishing some early authority against the Sharks last Friday, Gavet was pleased with the way the Knights held their nerve when the game was on the line.

"Whoever wins the middle wins the game normally, so it's going to be like that pretty much every week," he said.

"Whoever watches footy, any team can come out and play a good 20 or 40 minutes, but it's the top tier of teams like Melbourne, the Roosters, the Sharks that are always there and can push a team right to the edge of the cliff, sometimes right on the 80th minute.

"We're aware that's what it takes to be in the top four of this comp. We're not only aiming for the top eight, ultimately we want to win it, so if you set a high standard and can keep a team like the Sharks at bay for that long, that can go a long way in this comp."