Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
39 hours ago
Newcastle coach Michael Hagan has urged the try-hungry Knights to improve on their 60-point mauling of North Queensland when they host the New Zealand Warriors on Friday night.
The Knights produced a near-perfect first half of football to establish an NRL-record 48-0 lead over the Cowboys at the break before finishing 60-24 victors.
But Hagan said the 2001 premiers, sitting in eighth spot with four rounds of the minor premiership remaining, were in no position to rest on their laurels.
"I don't think we can afford to dwell on things too much at the moment," he said.
"We weren't happy with the last 10 or 15 minutes of that performance anyway, and we need to turn our thoughts to the Warriors pretty quickly.
"We've got to get back to business and make sure we've got our minds on the job."
Newcastle's NSW State of Origin centre Matt Gidley admitted the defensively-troubled Knights "went off the boil" in losing the second half 24-12 to the lowly-placed Cowboys.
They would need to lift against the sixth-placed Warriors, who finally showed some fight in the absence of halfback Stacey Jones, downing St George Illawarra 30-20 on Sunday.
"The Warriors were very obviously quite impressive over the Dragons on Sunday and I think we will need to improve quite a bit on our last performance to get on top of them," Gidley said.
Hagan, who made just one team change today, putting Luke Quigley on the interchange bench, was hoping Newcastle's wretched injury run this season was over for the charge to the finals.
"Last week, our strongest forward pack started the game for only the third time this year and I don't think it's coincidence that we won in convincing fashion," he said.
"I'm certainly not looking at our injuries as an excuse for our current position on the ladder, but I am expecting sustained improvement over the closing rounds of the competition, if we can keep the team healthy.
"There was a sense of us moving in the right direction after our win on Saturday, and I am hoping we can back that up with a strong performance over the Warriors on Friday night."