Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien said last week that he was not worried about any outside noise about his future, and that what was important was to come up with a game plan for Sunday’s showdown with the Panthers.
It’s true that losing the Knights’ best player to Head Knock in 20 minutes was not part of that plan, but regardless, the absence of Kalin Ponger was no excuse for the 42 missing points that the Premier tried to comfort Edrick Lee late. .
A 42-6 defeat leaves them barely out of the bottom four and miles away from final football, which they enjoyed in O’Brien’s first two seasons at the club.
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There is no specific reason for their declining form, but after two consecutive wins at the start of the year, they have dropped to nine out of 11, their only win being against inferior Bulldogs and Warriors.
And it’s not just defeat, it’s the way they came to be – only once, against the Dragons, were scores scored remotely.
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Their other eight losses? 18, 18, 24, 37, 48, 20, 24 and now 36.
It’s one thing to lose, another thing to leave your fans completely hopeless – some people in the red and blue persuasion hoped for a victory today, but it was never a competition.
Why O’Brien suffered was because their form, especially at home, was so bad.
“If I could, I would have multiple fingers in it – I’d put my whole hand in it,” he said.
When you are a team that is reorganizing and you have mentally prepared yourself for some weak years, as the South did in the early 2000’s, the Knights themselves did after Wayne Bennett left, or the Bulldogs are doing now, you appreciate the victory when they Come, and just try to make it the best.
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But when you’re a team that has made the drawn final series, and are expected to make one more jump in a squad bursting with talent, it hurts even more when you’re younger.
“We all have to work really hard to eradicate it, and we’re lucky – we’ve got the right people in the organization and we’ve identified [what we need to do]O’Brien says.
“It’s not an easy solution, but trust me, we’re working on it every day.”
Coach fog as Penrith’s pile on the point
At times, O’Brien could hardly see. If the defeat continues, he may not be seen from the coach’s box for long.
Penrith, for his part, was brilliant – especially in the first half when it seemed the Panthers could score whenever they got the ball.
With the exception of Evan Cleary, who was absent due to medical treatment, they were still in red-hot form, as a number of key individuals expressed frustration at the loss of their kingdom to the Knights.
Nathan Cleary and Stephen Crichton both scored and Brian Toe had a double, with Jerome Louie being heavily involved.
They are at the top of the table, a world away from Newcastle – who will travel to Canberra next week to play the Riders.
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