KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett says the self-belief within his team remains strong but it will take more than a win against lowly Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium on Saturday night to turn Newcastle’s season around.
The Knights are 10th on the ladder after four wins from their first 10 games and could drop to four points behind the top eight if results go against them this weekend.
It has been a disappointing start, to say the least, from a team bookmakers listed as premiership favourites before a ball was kicked in this campaign.
There has been widespread concern among fans, especially with Newcastle’s impotent attack, but master coach Bennett exuded calm and authority at training yesterday.
Asked if his players had retained their faith while pressure has been mounting, Bennett replied: ‘‘I haven’t lost it, so I hope they haven’t.
‘‘I don’t think they have.
‘‘It is a matter of getting it together and doing it for 80 minutes, a couple of weeks in a row, and the team you’re seeing here, you’ll say, ‘God, where’d that team go?’
‘‘It’ll be out the back door.’’
Bennett denied that any of Newcastle’s problems were between the ears. He was satisfied with their efforts, if not execution, in most games this season.
‘‘We’re not lacking confidence,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘I don’t think that’s the issue, and we’re playing enough good footy to suggest that’s not the case.
‘‘We’re just not executing well enough, and putting teams under enough pressure, and that’s coming back on us because of the errors that we’re making and options we’re taking.
‘‘The effort’s been there.
‘‘There hasn’t been one game we’ve played where we haven’t had guys putting in a lot of effort and competing real well.
‘‘But we’ve got to be able to execute a hell of a lot better than we are, and we’ve got to be able to play under pressure.
‘‘And we’re not doing that well enough.’’
Gold Coast have been travelling even worse than Newcastle.
They are 14th with three wins and are the only team in the competition who have scored fewer points than Newcastle.
Bennett denied that it was a must-win game for the Knights, who have won only two from five at home this season.
He indicated the points table, at this point in proceedings, was less of a priority than building form and momentum.
‘‘I’m not interested in going to the finals and making up the numbers,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘Right now, if we got to the finals the way we’re playing, we’d be just making up the numbers.
‘‘That’s the last thing [we want] ... when we get the things right, the way we want to play and the way we should be playing, the rest will look after itself.
‘‘We’ll worry about those things then.
‘‘Is Saturday a must-win game?
‘‘Last week was a must-win game.
‘‘The week before was a must-win game ... they’re all must-win games.
‘‘Saturday night’s no different for us. We know how important it is, but they’re all important.’’
The Knights are yet to post consecutive wins this season. Hence two points from beating Gold Coast is merely a step towards Bennett’s ultimate destination.
‘‘It’ll probably take more than one win,’’ Bennett said.
‘‘I’ll repeat, the last couple of weeks we’ve had some good moments and they know what feels right out there and what feels bad.
‘‘We’re closer to it than what we were.’’
Bennett said there had been signs in Newcastle’s recent losses to the Roosters and North Queensland that they were close to clicking as a unit.
‘‘There has been improvement and I can see it coming together,’’ he said.
‘‘But we’re not there yet ... it’s cumulative-type stuff.
‘‘It’s not just you say, ‘We’re not doing this well.’
‘‘The thing that we’re not doing is keeping the opposition under enough pressure and as a result of that it’s coming back onto us.
‘‘As it builds in our game, then the things that we can do well start to fall apart on us.
‘‘That’s where the process is right now. To build pressure, maintain it, and have a confidence and belief that that will work for them.’’
Bennett explained that ‘‘lots of things have changed here’’ since he arrived in November and the players were working hard to adapt.
Asked if a win would release some pressure, he replied: ‘‘Winning always helps.
‘‘I don’t know about expectations. They’re things we can’t control and we don’t worry about them.’’