Knights battle body and soul as Storm loom on horizon

MONITORING the team's psychological and physical health was the key to Newcastle's preparation for the game against Melbourne at EnergyAustralia Stadium next Monday, Knights coach Brian Smith said yesterday.

In the wake of Parramatta's 40-8 hammering from Sunday, shattered confidence was as much of a problem as battered bodies when Smith oversaw the team's regular recovery session at Mayfield.

Prop Danny Wicks is unlikely to play against the Storm, because of a painful sternum injury, and back-rower Steve Simpson (broken nose and concussion) will be assessed during the week.

Centre Junior Sau has muscle bruising in his lower back but does not expect that to stop him playing, hooker Isaac De Gois will have precautionary scans on a neck injury but is a likely starter and playmaker Jarrod Mullen has been cleared of a serious ankle injury.

Smith said restoring confidence after consecutive heavy losses to the Eels, Roosters and Manly would be just as important as the Knights try to stay in the finals race.

"There's a bit of a mix of both there, I think," he said.

"We're trying to get the workload right so we can re-energise ready for a big game again next Monday; that's probably the biggest thing.

"I think there's quite a few of our guys that have played a lot of minutes this season, particularly our forwards. We've got a lot of guys who have played more minutes than we would have anticipated, more than they've ever played before."

Apart from anything forced by injuries, Smith said he did not envisage making significant changes to the team overwhelmed by the Eels.

[PI9016] The Knights have rewarded Zeb Taia's consistency by signing the hard-working back-rower to a two-year contract extension. Taia, who was named last week in New Zealand's 45-man Quad Nations squad, was already signed until the end of next year, but the new deal will keep him in Newcastle until the end of 2012.

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