DISCARDED back-rower Zeb Taia has unfinished business with the Newcastle Knights that he intends to resolve before linking with Super League club Catalans Dragons at the end of the season.
Taia signed a three-year deal with the Perpignan-based outfit last month, after being squeezed out of coach Wayne Bennett’s 2013 roster to accommodate St George Illawarra back-rower Beau Scott.
Though disappointed about having to part company with the Knights, whom he joined midway through 2007 from Parramatta, Taia vowed yesterday to go out swinging.
‘‘I want to put my best foot forward, because I’ve still got a lot of goals I want to achieve here before I leave,’’ Taia said.
‘‘That’s obviously playing finals footy and getting my hundred games up for the club.
‘‘I’m going to do my best every week and put my best foot forward, because I reckon the fans deserve it.’’
Tonight’s clash with Canberra at Hunter Stadium will be Taia’s 90th in Newcastle’s first-grade side.
With 11 games left in the regular season, plus the finals should the Knights qualify, he realises there is little room for error if he is to register his century for the club.
‘‘There’s definitely a lot of pressure,’’ Taia said. ‘‘I just hope I can stay in this side for the rest of the year.’’
Dropped to NSW Cup last week, the 2010 Kiwi international accepted that unexpected setback as a wake-up call.
‘‘You don’t always want to play NSW Cup, but I went back there with the right attitude and that’s probably why I’m back up in first grade this week,’’ he said.
‘‘... I’d had a couple of defensive errors and I think Wayne just had enough.
‘‘I agreed with him. Definitely it was the way to do it.
‘‘I went back there with the right attitude, worked on my defence, and that’s probably why I’m back up.’’
Taia said it was ‘‘pretty hard’’ watching the telecast of Newcastle’s 50-24 hammering by Brisbane last weekend.
Tonight he plans to make up for lost time.
After four successive defeats, the Knights are 13th on the points table, three wins adrift of the top eight.
Their season could well hang on the outcome of their showdown with the equally pedestrian Canberra, who are level on points with Newcastle but two positions lower, because of for-and-against.
Taia said none of his teammates had given up hope of reaching the play-offs and tonight would be the ideal opportunity to get the season back on track.
‘‘We’d like to do it for ourselves, too,’’ he said.
‘‘We are struggling at the moment. We want to do it for ourselves and prove to the fans that we’ve still got a lot to give this year and we can definitely be in the eight towards the end of the year.
‘‘It starts this week. Go out there, perform well against the Raiders, get the two points, and build on that.’’
Newcastle workhorse Chris Houston was unable to complete yesterday’s training session, but Knights officials reported that he was merely ‘‘resting’’ and not nursing an injury.
The club said he would play tonight.
Both teams will be depleted by Origin absentees. Canberra lose Test prop David Shillington and Newcastle will be without strike weapons Aku Uate and Darius Boyd.
In the absence of Uate and Boyd, Newcastle will field a makeshift backline with three players – Peter Mata’autia, Dane Gagai and Kevin Naiqama – who have just 13 NRL games to their name.
Gagai, signed last week after being sacked by Brisbane, will partner Naiqama in one of the most inexperienced right-edge pairings in Newcastle history.
Experienced centres Junior Sa’u and Wes Naiqama will line up against Western Suburbs Magpies in today’s NSW Cup match at Campbelltown, along with fellow first-grade regulars Matt Hilder, Richie Fa’aoso and Evarn Tuimavave.