The inexcusable mistake Knights players should never have made

Let’s not sugarcoat it: the Newcastle Knights are going through a really tough period. Everything that has happened in the past few weeks has been so disappointing.

Firstly, the club needs to find what its DNA is. What do we stand for? How do we play? This all needs to be sorted in the off-season because the club can’t afford another year like this one.

I hate to say it, but there is no short-term solution. We just have to look at the Panthers because they’ve found the right model.

Like Penrith, we have a big catchment in Newcastle, and right throughout the Hunter. Something is broken in the pathways because we haven’t been producing the juniors we should have in the past decade, and we desperately need to build from within again.

When the Knights have been successful, they’ve had a stream of local juniors. If they were deficient in a position at NRL level, they would buy a really good player. I still rate Ben Kennedy as the best buy in the club’s history.

There is a crop of players in SG Ball and Jersey Flegg that are going really well. We need to identify the good ones and coach the hell out of them. Hopefully, we’ll see a sprinkling of those players coming through in the next 12 months, so that in three years’ time they are regular first-graders.

Kalyn Ponga was escorted out of a toilet cubicle.Credit:Getty

I don’t care what anyone says, it means more for a player who has come through a system and is from the area when he eventually plays in the NRL for that club. The Panthers are proof of that.

I’ll leave the Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann situation to one side until the NRL integrity unit has finished its work.

But I will talk about Bradman Best and Enari Tuala being dropped this week for missing the team bus in Brisbane last weekend.

That is one of the biggest no-nos in team sport for me. It is disrespecting your teammates. I don’t care if you’ve had a drink the night before, you always front up the next day – whether it’s for recovery, training or wherever it is you’re required.

Bradman Best and Enari Tuala during Saturday’s game against the Broncos.Credit:NRL Photos

It has just put more pressure on everyone in the organisation. Director of football Peter Parr is a great addition for the club, but he shouldn’t have to deal with an issue like this.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I just feel desperately sorry for the fans. I know they’ll turn up again, but this year we’ve had scores put on us by the Panthers, Eels, Storm and Broncos at home and were comfortably beaten by the Bulldogs. They have every right to voice their frustration and anger.

I just hope they watch a decent performance against the Raiders on Sunday.

Better Lat than never

If there is one team I’d be looking over my shoulder at before the finals, it’s South Sydney. They look in a mood to entertain and have a style you cannot coach against.

Latrell Mitchell on the charge against Parramatta earlier this month.Credit:Getty

I spend all week thinking about watching Latrell Mitchell and Cody Walker play – I can’t imagine what it’s actually like for Rabbitohs fans. I get the sense the Rabbitohs and Roosters are timing their runs to perfection.

I listened closely to what Mitchell said last week. It was along the lines of, “you haven’t seen anything yet”. It is rare for players to put themselves out there these days, but it was refreshing to hear. I’d love to hear more of it.

This is shaping as a great game against the Panthers. We’re going to get a fast and dry track with a little bit of wind around, which means there should be no dew on the surface. That is the style of football that should bring out the best in these teams.

Everyone knows the way they attack down their left, but no one can stop it. You see it coming, you know it’s coming, but they do it so well – with their attention to detail – it can’t be stopped.

Penrith Panthers fullback Dylan Edwards.Credit:Getty

The Rabbitohs are getting back to full strength with Campbell Graham returning, but I really like their back row. I think it’s the best in the competition, with the champion Cameron Murray, Keaon Koloamatangi and Jai Arrow really balancing it out.

A special mention for Lachlan Ilias. As a young halfback, I’ve paid close attention to him this year. He’s improving each week, but the thing I really like is he plays gun-barrel straight in attack. A lot of young halves take space away from their outside men by shuffling across field, but he’s established a really good combination with Koloamatangi and is learning how to read Damien Cook’s game.

I think the next project for him is to work on his running game, but he’s done a tremendous job after coming in with all the pressure of Adam Reynolds leaving for the Broncos.

Dylan Edwards is a big inclusion for the Panthers, but I’m not sure they can stop a red-hot Rabbitohs.

Joey’s tip: Rabbitohs by 10
First try-scorer: Keaon Koloamatangi
Man of the match: Latrell Mitchell

Suaalii, Cobbo up for the Cup

You wouldn’t have thought it was a possibility at the start of the year, but Australia’s World Cup wingers could be Joseph Suaalii and Selwyn Cobbo.

Brian To’o is committed to Samoa, Josh Addo-Carr will be in the mix, but he won’t play in the semi-finals, and I think Valentine Holmes is now a centre.

Suaalii and Cobbo both play without fear.

Suaalii plays without the fear of getting whacked. The way he runs the ball and bends the line is frightening.

Cobbo plays without the fear of making an error. He took an intercept off Tex Hoy against the Knights last week and it was like he was playing in the park at Cherbourg with his mates. He has the gift of putting himself in a situation to get the ball or score a try. You can’t coach that – and you can’t coach against it.

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