It's been a real emotional week for Mitch Barnett.
He was absolutely gutted by the racial accusations and that plenty of people, many of them with little or no knowledge of what happened, were hammering him about it.
He was so affected by it all, I'm not sure Barney would have put his hand up to play on Sunday against the Rabbitohs without some form of closure on the whole thing.
He didn't want to go into the biggest game of his career with this hanging over his head and not be 100 percent focused because of his fear he might let us down.
All the boys have given him a heap of support and thankfully, he has been cleared by the NRL to take on Souths. It's a big relief for everyone because he is such an integral part of our squad.
As a teammate and friend, I back him. He's adamant he didn't say what's been reported and I've got absolutely no reason to doubt him. He has the support and respect of everyone at the club so I'm now looking forward to seeing him really rip in on Sunday.
The less said about what happened on the Gold Coast last week the better. When we play well, we can really turn it on but when we are bad, we can be shocking.
Toohey's News: Listen to Barry Toohey's new podcast in your Podcast app
There is no overnight fix for that but the good thing is we will go in on Sunday with our backs against the wall and that seems to be how we like it. No-one is giving us a chance against Souths and rightly so after last weekend.
But I can tell you there is no lack of self-belief within the playing group about what we can and can't do during this finals series.
From my perspective, it's pretty simple. The single most important focus for us has to be to hang onto the footy.
Control the footy and you control the amount of defence you have to do. It's when we make mistakes, cough up the ball and give away penalties, particularly early in games, that we get ourselves into trouble.
Hand momentum to the opposition and all of a sudden, you are under defensive pressure and there is a snowball effect. All the tackling fatigues you and when you do get the footy, you are too gassed to do anything constructive with it. That leads to more mistakes, more penalties and more defence.
We need to get on the front foot early against Souths and it's going to be up to myself and DSaf [Daniel Saifiti] to make some inroads and get us going forward. If we let Souths get comfortable, it could be a long afternoon for us because everyone knows what they can do if you let them get in the mood.
It's exciting times. Plenty of our guys have never played in a finals series game before. It's different from a regular club game. There's a real electricity surrounding the finals, a different atmosphere.
Hopefully, we can do all of Newcastle proud on Sunday.
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here
IN THE NEWS:
- NRL: Redemption on menu as finals challenge looms large for Knights
- Newcastle RL: Friday night lights for Goannas, Lakes at Cessnock Sportsground
- NNSW NPL: No time to rest for Magic as race for trophies heats up
- Racing: Scone mare It's Me ready to climb any mountain
- Golf: Callan O'Reilly unpauses with fellow pros at Toronto Super Sixes