Knights coach Adam O’Brien said “people are going to think I’m off my head” before revealing he did see an improvement in his side this week despite a 50-2 scoreline.
Exactly seven days ago O’Brien apologised to fans after Newcastle’s 39-2 loss to the Parramatta. He labelled the team’s performance that day “awful” and conceded it was “hard to look anybody in the eye.”
The Knights were expected to respond to that shellacking but instead were thrashed by the Storm.
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But despite the result, O’Brien believes he did see a response from some of his players.
“People are going to think I’m off my head if they look at the scoreline and think that there was (improvement) but there was some response,” he said.
“There were some parts I didn’t see, the fundamentals like catching the ball off kick-offs and kicking off properly, I didn’t see all that. So I’m not happy with that stuff but some individuals showed they really care but we were still soft in some parts out on our edges.
“They (the Storm) played way too quick, Harry had way too much time, they were having a good time out there at the end.”
The Knights’ day started off the completely wrong foot when Jake Clifford’s kick-off went out on the full. The Storm then scored two tries in five minutes before laying on a further seven tries.
The only points Newcastle scored were through a penalty goal right on half time. It was a bizarre decision to go for the two given they were trailing by 26 points.
Skipper Kalyn Ponga put his hand up afterwards for it.
When asked if he was surprised by the decision, O’Brien said “yeah” before Ponga interjected.
“That was probably me,” Ponga said.
“We probably should have had a set, I didn’t really know, I didn’t really think… that was probably on me.”
Ponga was asked if it had been the toughest two weeks since he arrived in Newcastle in 2018.
He said “probably yeah.”
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The star fullback backed his coach on seeing an improvement in the side’s effort but conceded that probably made the loss “hurt more.”
“There was a lot more effort I thought, it’s hard to see that when the scoreboard is reflected the way it is but I thought there was a lot more effort than last week and that probably hurts more,” he said.
The Knights now sit at the bottom of the ladder after a six-game losing streak. O’Brien believes the issue is confidence and injuries — but one thing he has confidence in is the team’s ability to bounce back.
“There’s no doubt we’re lacking confidence and we’re lacking personnel clearly,” he said.
“But I thought we tried harder, just our start and I think the first 17 minutes the Storm only made 12 tackles to our 25. Against the Storm you just can’t do that.
“We’re down on confidence at the moment and the only answer is to stick together and fight our way out. We’ll come out the other side, unfortunately we’ve done it annually for a long period of time now.”
The Knights are without the likes of Dane Gagai, Jayden Brailey, Lachlan Fitzgibbon and Hymel Hunt.
O’Brien stressed that he can’t drop any players after Sunday’s loss because “I can’t fill the 24 on the sheet that you’ve got fill out on Tuesdays because I’m nearly making names up.”
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But he’s not looking for any sympathy.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for us and we don’t want that,” he said.
“We don’t want people’s sympathy, we don’t want to be kicked unnecessarily, but we don’t want sympathy.
“We’ll get together and we’ll fight it. We did it last year, we were on a losing streak and then got a couple of key personnel back and some confidence. The fundamental errors of our game today that’s confidence — you stop seeing things clearly.”
Ponga also had a message for the fans that turned up to McDonald Jones Stadium a week after watching their side get thrashed by the Eels.
“That was the disappointing part,” he said.
“I woke up today and was thinking I’m grateful to do this in front of the people we get to and then to put that effort out there that really hurt. But we love our fans.
“For us, we’ve just got to work hard and stick together, that’s what this city is about, working hard and sticking together. That’s what we’re going to do.”