Hagan: Knights Need Improved

Newcastle, and newly elected Queensland coach, Michael Hagan said he looks forward to an improved attitude from his side this season after a disappointing end to last year?s premiership campaign.

Writing on the Knights? official website, Hagan described the final match against the Roosters as having ?left a bad taste in the mouths [of] supporters, sponsors, players and staff.?

Hagan described the Knights performance in that game as ?poor?, but hoped such a match would spur the side to an improved performance in 2004.

Entering his fourth year as coach, Hagan said injuries had hurt the Knights in the past 18 months; a factor that he hoped would have less of an impact this season.

?Injuries have been well documented and we seem to be a lot healthier this year, than we were at the same time last year,? he said.

?While not offering excuses, whether we like it or not, the number and severity of injuries suffered and representative commitments did have an adverse effect on our year.?

Despite introducing ten debutants to the rigours of first grade in 2003, Hagan said he looked forward to seeing more new faces in the line-up as the side looks to establish a greater depth.

The Knights have bolstered their side with off-season recruits Steve Witt (Parramatta), Jamie Fitzgerald (Souths), Russell Richardson (Souths), Kevin Henderson (Souths), David Seage (Wynumm Manly) and a number of players who impressed in the local competition in 2003.

Hagan said he hoped that these off-season acquisitions would provide increased competition for places.

?[It] is something that we have not been in position to do for a number of season due to the restrictions placed upon our club by the Salary Cap,? Hagan said.

Hagan has also called for his squad to lift their defensive standard, citing the success of the Sydney Roosters defensive style.

?The Roosters have increased the level from an intensity point of view... so they are certainly the benchmark for how teams defend.?

Hagan said he expected representative players Andrew Johns, Matthew Gidley, Ben Kennedy and Timana Tahu would be returning to the side refreshed from the off-season.

The Knights play their first premiership match against the 2003 Premiers, the Penrith Panthers, on Friday March 12.