NEWCASTLE back-rower Neville Costigan says he and his teammates are not feeling the weight of expectation as the Knights chase a semi-final place with three rounds remaining.
The Wayne Bennett-coached, Nathan Tinkler-owned Knights were among the competition favourites in pre-season but have had to fight back to the cusp of the top eight after a poor first half of the season.
They are one win behind eighth-placed Wests Tigers and face an unenviable run home, starting with the fourth-placed Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval tomorrow.
Newcastle round out the season with an away game against the fifth-placed North Queensland Cowboys and a home match against third-placed South Sydney.
But even with the top eight in sight, Costigan said the players were not feeling the pressure to live up to the pre-season hype.
‘‘Not at the moment. I think we’re just having fun,’’ Costigan said.
‘‘The last couple of months we’ve been winning games in a row and we’re just having fun at the moment.
‘‘We don’t feel any pressure on us. We’re just rocking up to training and just looking forward to the next game we play.
‘‘We haven’t thought about the semis much. We’re just trying to win each game as it comes, and that’s all we can do. If we make the semis, that’s a big bonus for us.’’
A 24-6 win over the Sharks on Monday was the latest effort in the Knights’ impressive recent run.
In a dominant performance, Newcastle looked likely to rack up a hefty score against Cronulla but handling errors proved costly.
Costigan, who had two of Newcastle’s 11 handling errors on Monday, said improving handling had been a focus.
Brett Keeble reports: Knights centre Junior Sa’u will play for Melbourne next season, pending the outcome of a medical examination with the Storm’s fitness and conditioning staff.
Sa’u is in the first year of a two-year contract he signed last season but coach Wayne Bennett dropped him after Newcastle’s 50-24 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on June 3 and since then he has been confined to the ranks of the NSW Cup.
The Knights have agreed to release the nuggety New Zealand international from the final year of his contract to join the Storm, who see Sa’u as a potential replacement for Queensland State of Origin centre Dane Nielsen, who has signed with the Warriors.
Cronulla showed some interest in Sa’u, 25, but he has agreed to terms with the Storm hoping to kick-start his career under the coaching of Craig Bellamy.
In his first four seasons with the Knights, Sa’u played 78 NRL games under coaches Brian Smith and Rick Stone and represented New Zealand in nine Tests.
He has played just eight games this year as Bennett, after giving Sa’u and Penrith-bound Wes Naiqama their chances earlier in the season, has settled on Timana Tahu and mid-season signing Dane Gagai as Newcastle’s first-choice centres.
Gagai has scored four tries and the Knights have won six of the nine games he has played since arriving from Brisbane in June.
Sa’u will play in the centres and Naiqama at fullback for Newcastle’s NSW Cup team against the winless Western Suburbs Magpies at Townson Oval tomorrow.
The Knights are fifth on the NSW Cup ladder after beating Mounties 28-14 at Mount Pritchard last Saturday.