Preview of tonight's Challenge Cup... LeagueUnlimited.com - NRL & Rugby League A View From The Hill ...
3 days ago
After just 15 rounds the Newcastle Knights couldn't wait for the NRL season to end. Now they are wishing it would go on just a little longer.
Newcastle will bring to a close one of its worst-ever campaigns when it takes on St George Illawarra on Sunday, with the Knights looking at their first ever wooden spoon.
They began the season with 13 straight losses, the worst start to a season since Easts' winless campaign of 1966.
But they enter this weekend's final round of the season one of the form teams in the competition, having won their last six contests.
"I guess the way we're travelling I'd like to play another couple more weeks," Knights coach Michael Hagan said.
"It's been a really enjoyable period for us, Saturday night was another great performance.
"It's disappointing we're not going to be there abouts to contend (in the finals), given that we have played and beaten plenty of the good sides in the run home."
While still without the likes of representative players Matthew Gidley, Mark Hughes, Josh Perry and Daniel Abraham, Hagan is at least glad to have most of his troops back on deck.
The club endured a horrific run with injuries earlier in the year, which included long spells on the sidelines for superstar duo Andrew Johns and Danny Buderus.
"I guess we've had the opportunity for the same team to be ... on the field for 4-6 weeks, a little bit of continuity and confidence coming from that," Hagan said.
"I think our missed player games this year was something like 234, last year they were 177, the year before 159.
"You just can't compete in big games with that sort of number of players out each year.
"I wish I could learn to solve things medically a bit better than I have been able to in the last three years."
Despite their good form of late the Knights are still favourites to finish in last spot. To avoid the wooden spoon, Newcastle needs to win on Sunday, and hope Cronulla can defeat 14th-placed Souths on Saturday night.
The Knights will know exactly where they stand by the time their clash with the Dragons rolls around, but Hagan doesn't expect the result of the Cronulla-Souths game the previous night to have much impact on his team's performance.
"I don't think it's going to change things too much to be honest," Hagan said.
"It's been in our mind for six or eight weeks now and our situation hasn't changed in that time.
"The focus has always been on preparing and playing well and I guess that's going to be our focus irrespective of (Saturday night's result).
"Playing at Kogarah on Sunday, a packed stadium, and they're I guess the premiership favourites, it still gives you some motivation to play well."