After "standing up to the bullies" to beat the Rabbitohs and Roosters in their past two games, Knights prop James Gavet expects a different challenge from Melbourne at AAMI Park on Saturday.
Gavet replaced injured NSW metre-eater David Klemmer in the starting pack in the 20-12 victory over Souths at ANZ Stadium last Friday as the Knights extended their winning streak to six.
One of the talking points was a melee late in the first half from which Knights forwards Daniel Saifiti and Lachlan Fitzgibbon and South Sydney’s Sam and Thomas Burgess were sin-binned. That was sparked when Thomas Burgess led with his head after a tackle and Saifiti retaliated with a punch.
There was some spite and spice a fortnight earlier when the Knights out-muscled the Roosters 38-12 in Newcastle. In both cases, the wins ended long losing streaks against those teams, but Gavet expected the Storm would rely on brains over brawn to try to overcome the Knights.
"With the Roosters and Rabbits, the big boys crash and bash and you’ve got to stand up to a bully when you’re playing those two teams, and we did that," Gavet said.
"But Melbourne, they’re a team that can find a chink in your armour really quick. I don’t think they’ll be as aggressive as the last two teams we faced but they normally can find out where your weaknesses are really quick and exploit that.
"As they say, you’re only as strong as your weakest player or as fast as your slowest player. But if everyone puts in this week, and we study up on what their weaknesses are and we can turn it back on them, we’ll have complete belief going into this game with all confidence.
"We’re not really underdogs or the dark horse anymore, so all the more reason for us to prep as best we can. You can never take Melbourne for granted, even if they come off a loss or if they have a few players out. They’re all class … so we definitely have to make sure we prep well and take our big guns in."
Gavet said Klemmer, who had been averaging 176 metres and almost 35 tackles a game for the Knights before breaking his wrist in Origin I last Wednesday, challenged himself and Saifiti to lead the forwards against the highly regarded Rabbitohs pack.
"[Klemmer] was a massive loss, and no one else takes up the type of stats that he does," Gavet said.
"He doesn’t really chat on the field, so for us to fill that void, missing 200 running metres and 40-odd tackles, I thought the boys – Pasami [Saulo], Herman [Ese’ese] and Sione Mata’utia – they filled that void massively.
"D-Saf, he took that on board. Klem challenged him before the game to say, ‘Hey, you and Jimmy have to lead the pack this week because I’m not out there’.
"And Daniel definitely stuck it to those Burgess boys, and all of us other front-rowers, we had his back and we’ll do it again this week."
Gavet believed winning without Klemmer and Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga, who was rested after his starring role for the Maroons, was good for the team’s growing confidence.
By winning six straight games after losing five in a row earlier in the year, Gavet said the Knights had learned to trust each other, whether they were established senior representative stars or young players taking their first steps in the NRL.
"I think it’s almost been a blessing in disguise, if you’re to take something good out of Klem not playing, or KP not playing," he said.
"We’re still able to field other players and the team has trust in them to do not exactly the same job, but to do a job. To know where we’ve come from and where we are now, it’s good to know that we all have complete faith in one another."