Newcastle’s middle men have taken responsibility for the team’s slow start against Manly last week and are determined to make amends against Gold Coast at Robina on Easter Sunday.
Representative front-rowers David Klemmer, Tim Glasby and James Gavet, who were recruited to toughen up Newcastle’s soft underbelly, did just that in the first month of the season. But as a group they did not reach those same standards last Saturday.
Manly props Addin Fonua-Blake, Martin Taupau and Jake Trbojevic won the battle on the advantage line last weekend to help the Sea Eagles establish an 18-0 lead by the 20th minute on their way to a 26-18 victory.
It was Newcastle’s fourth straight loss and Klemmer concedes they already find themselves in “must-win” territory as they head north to take on the Titans, who are also 1-4.
"When you look at our record, you've got to start thinking like that," Klemmer told reporters before training on Thursday.
"We can't keep losing footy games. We've got to start winning a couple of games in a row and start building some consistency.
"We've addressed all aspects of the game and what's happened the last couple of weeks … so there should be no excuses come Sunday."
Gavet, who had missed the loss to the Dragons the previous week because of a sternum issue, was disappointed with their collective contribution but did not use his injury as an excuse.
"Our starting middles have put our hands up for that, because we're the ones who are supposed to set the foundation, especially in that first 20 minutes," Gavet said.
"We can't be playing that type of footy in this competition, so that's something we've addressed and we've analysed through video and we're going to try and correct that from this weekend."
Glasby believed Newcastle's engine room had fired up in their first four games against the Sharks, Panthers, Raiders and Dragons, but must rediscover that form against the Titans to show the Manly game was an aberration.
"Obviously we weren't real happy with that first 20 minutes, first half as a forward pack, but as a whole we've been reasonably happy with how we've performed, particularly in defence," Glasby told NRL.com.
"We've obviously had a good look at that Manly game, we've addressed it, and we're looking to getting back to what we've done in weeks previous and even improving on that a bit more."
Glasby said criticism was to be expected after four straight losses "but we're not miles off the pace".
"I learned a long time ago, you can't worry about what other people are saying about you," he said.
"A lot of what the media and fans are saying is probably something that’s been said in-house here as well, so we've addressed a few things and we're addressing things as we go.
"Commentators and media have to say stuff, and they have to commentate on what they see at the time. So of course they're going to speak highly of the teams at the top of the ladder, and speak negatively of the teams at the bottom, and rightly so.
"We're down at the bottom end because we haven’t got the results on the board... but we certainly don't read into that and think we're not making the finals.There’s a long journey left to go, and we're working real hard on turning things around.”
Klemmer, meanwhile, played down talk of a personal duel with Titans prop Ryan James, who hopes to dominate the NSW and Australian front-rower as part of his quest to play State of Origin.
"If that's his motivation for the game, if that's how he's going to prepare for his game, I've got to worry about doing my job for my footy side,” Klemmer said.
"Origin's a long time away. I'm not thinking about Origin just yet.
"I'm worried about the Newcastle Knights. If he’s thinking about that, good on him.