THEY say a change is as good as a holiday, and now Knights coach Wayne Bennett hopes a holiday will inspire a change.
His team have lost five consecutive games, are languishing 14th on the premiership ladder and have plunged from pre-season premiership favourites to wooden spoon contenders in the space of half a season.
Yet instead of punishing them with hard yards on the training pitch, Bennett has ordered his troops to ‘‘get out of town’’ because they have the bye this weekend.
They are not due to resume training until Monday, in preparation for their crucial clash with Wests Tigers a week later.
It is understood players have scattered to all points of the compass. Some were rumoured to be heading overseas.
Bennett himself is expected to spend at least part of the week at home with his family in Brisbane or visiting his farm in Queensland’s Darling Downs.
And before Knights fans react with astonishment, it should be noted that the week off was scheduled well before Saturday’s 32-16 loss to Canberra – and that Bennett employed the same tactics in 2006 and 2010, when he won premierships with Brisbane and St George Illawarra.
As Bennett wrote in his 2008 autobiography: ‘‘One of the crucial aspects of that year was being given a bye after the last Origin game, which meant we could give the guys seven days off ... we wanted to try to avoid the post-Origin slumps of previous years.’’
Bennett said he was warned by strength coach Dan Baker that the Broncos may struggle when they resumed, but it would pay dividends at the business end of the season.
‘‘I’d tried things and they hadn’t worked,’’ Bennett said. ‘‘Dan said we had to take the risk and freshen them up ... Dan said we wouldn’t perform for the first couple of games after the break, but then we’d start to play good footy.
‘‘His prediction was pretty right.’’
They duly lost their next five games but recovered to beat Melbourne in the grand final.
As former Broncos skipper Darren Lockyer recalled in his life story: ‘‘Some blokes went to the coast.
‘‘A few just put their feet up at home.
‘‘Darius Boyd and Karmichael Hunt actually flew to Thailand for a holiday.
‘‘It was open slather, the only rule being we were not allowed to enter the Broncos’ football club premises until training recommenced.’’
Players were even threatened with fines if they were seen at Brisbane’s training base.
But worryingly for Knights fans, Lockyer noted: ‘‘To go an entire week without passing or kicking a football left us lacking cohesion and the Cowboys [their next opponents] made us pay.’’
Bennett stuck to the same formula when he arrived at the Dragons three years later.
As superstar fullback Darius Boyd noted in 2010, in the lead-up to the Dragons’ premiership triumph: ‘‘That week off can really break it up for you.
‘‘Then you can concentrate on the rest of the season and really nail it.
‘‘[Bennett] just wants you to get away and have a pretty good break.
‘‘I’m pretty sure that has put us in good stead.’’
One way or the other, it could be a gamble that makes or breaks Newcastle’s season.
If Bennett’s players come back energised, they might finally start playing to their potential.
Alternatively, if, like Brisbane in 2006, they are rusty after the week off, then things could start to turn very ugly, very fast.
Meanwhile, Boyd was not interested in discussing Newcastle’s woes when he spoke to reporters after Queensland’s training sessions yesterday, repeatedly stating: ‘‘I’m concentrating on Origin. I’m here to play for Queensland.’’
Boyd scored Queensland’s opening two tries in their Origin I victory.
He is yet to cross the stripe in 12 games with Newcastle.
‘‘It was good to get a couple of tries,’’ he said.
‘‘It makes my job a lot easier with the best players in the world.’’