Captain Kurt Gidley says Newcastle will have Alex McKinnon in mind when the Knights return to AAMI Park for the first time since the back-rower suffered his career-ending injury in Melbourne last year.
Gidley believes the Knights will head into the NRL’s 24th and third last round of the season in a more positive frame of mind than usual after caretaker coach Danny Buderus enjoyed his first win in charge in Saturday’s 24-18 win over Wests Tigers.
It was Buderus’ third game with the clipboard since Rick Stone was sacked last month.
But a bigger challenge faces the Knights next Monday as they return to Melbourne for the first time since McKinnon suffered a spinal injury in round three last year.
“It feels like a long time ago. We are aware of what happened there,” Gidley said who played in the match.
After Newcastle won just their third game in 17 matches against Wests at Campbelltown, Gidley said the mood in the camp had lifted considerably.
“This week is going to be a lot more positive and happier than the previous ones, that’s for sure. I think we go down there in a good mindset,” he said.
“When you come up against the best teams and the best players, they are always great challenges.”
“That’s what the younger guys need to understand. You come up against good players and good teams, you want to challenge yourself against the best teams.”
Newcastle’s win lifted them off the bottom of the NRL ladder on percentages, with Gold Coast now last after succumbing to Canterbury 36-14 in Gosford on Sunday.
The downside was the Bulldogs was hooker Michael Lichaa suffering a potentially season-ending ankle injury.
Sydney Roosters will host Brisbane in a potential minor premiership showdown at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night after the teams enjoyed respective wins on the weekend.
The Broncos made light work at home of a depleted St George Illawarra 32-6 on Friday to stay atop the NRL ladder.
The Roosters survived a first half scare against Parramatta at Allianz Stadium on Saturday to prevail 28-18 and move into the top two for the first time this year.
South Sydney put the competition on notice they won’t give up their premiership without a fight in a brutal 31-18 disposal of North Queensland in Townsville on Thursday night to open round 23.
Manly continued their surge towards the top eight with their sixth win in seven games, a 26-24 victory over Canberra in the nation’s capital.
Penrith defeated the Warriors 24-10 in Panthers’ forward Nigel Plum’s 150th and final NRL game.
Cronulla host Melbourne in the concluding match of the NRL’s 23rd round on Monday night.