No quick fix looms for Newcastle but the lowly Knights have vowed to ensure pivot Jarrod Mullen’s 200th NRL game on Saturday will be worth celebrating.
The winless Knights copped another blow ahead of their home match against an unbeaten Canberra, losing former NSW winger Akuila Uate (chest).
But Knights No.7 Trent Hodkinson said Mullen’s milestone was just the spark Newcastle needed after a horror season start.
Mullen will become just the eighth Knight to break the 200-game barrier after making his debut in 2005.
The second-last Knights have conceded 78 points in the first two rounds but hope to find another gear in their first home match of the year.
Asked if Mullen’s milestone would be a motivation, NSW State of Origin halfback Hodkinson said: “It will be. We want to put on a good performance for our Jarrod, our fans and the club in general.
“The first couple of weeks, we shot ourselves in the foot.”
But Hodkinson said fans wanting to see the Knights become a powerhouse again would need to be patient.
Knights coach Nathan Brown has stayed on course on his youth policy, refusing to pick experienced trio Kade Snowden, Jack Stockwell and Mickey Paea this season.
He will blood more youth against the Raiders with 18-year-old debutant Cory Denniss replacing the injured Uate.
“It’s no excuse but a young side coming together is going to take a little bit of time,” Hodkinson said.
That approach also goes for Hodkinson’s combination with Mullen.
“It’s only two games in, but it’s only going to improve,” said Knights recruit Hodkinson.
“I get pretty hard on myself when your team is not winning … but I am happy with where it is at.”
Ex-Bulldog Hodkinson was just glad Mullen was finally on his side.
“He always had me under the pump a bit,” he said.
Newcastle are not expected to be shown any mercy by the Raiders – but at least the hosts know what to expect.
They lost their pre-season trial to the Raiders in Orange during which they trailed 34-0 after 30 minutes.
“We need to be in their face and work off the back of that,” Hodkinson said.
KEY STATS – KNIGHTS V RAIDERS:
* Canberra has won four of the past five games against the Knights and three of the past four in Newcastle
* Canberra have not won their first three matches of the season since notching four straight in 2005 – that year was the only time out of five 3-0 starts the Raiders missed the finals
* This season has marked just the third time in Newcastle club history they have lost their opening two matches (2005, 2014)
* The Knights have won just four of their past 22 matches; in 10 of their past 11 losses, they have conceded at least 30 points