Newcastle say they are more worried about ensuring they have not presided over a false dawn rather than the returning Wayne Bennett and his undermanned “Baby Broncos”.
The Knights hare favoured to wrap up back-to-back wins against Brisbane on Monday night after snapping a five-game losing streak against the Wests Tigers last week.
The Knights will be missing just one player because of State of Origin in Beau Scott, after Dane Gagai was released from Queensland camp when Greg Inglis was cleared of tonsillitis.
The Broncos will be without Corey Parker, Justin Hodges, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire and Darius Boyd however they are not suffering a dearth of experience.
Dale Copley, Daniel Vidot and David Stagg slot back in while their spine remains pretty much intact, with their halves and hooker remaining the same.
The Broncos have been ordinary without their Origin stars in the past three seasons, winning just two of five games, however they will field just one debutant in Joe Boyce against the Knights.
“I don’t think you can view them any differently,” Knights winger James McManus said.
“It’s been the same story for the Broncos for years and there’s always young and enthusiastic guys getting their opportunity at this time of year … And they’ve still got some great players in their team, we certainly can’t take them any differently.”
Monday night’s match will mark Bennett’s first visit to Hunter Stadium since quitting the Knights and returning to coach Brisbane this season.
McManus said the Knights’ most pressing priority was getting their NRL finals push back on track after looking strong early in the season when they won their opening four.
“There’s always room to improve and regardless of the win we certainly have a lot of things to work on,” McManus said.
“The determination we showed in our (defence) and we just dug in for each other on the weekend and that’s what we need is that desperation.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Knights have won just 13 of 43 matches against the Broncos.
* Last year the Broncos beat the Knights by a cumulative margin of 80-12 across three games.
* Brisbane is the only team Newcastle has not defeated at Hunter Stadium since 2011.
* Newcastle has busted the most tackles of any team this season, and has made the fourth most linebreaks.