Kalyn Ponga's perceived five-eighth experiment failure and the loss of form of fullback Lachie Miller are not the chief reasons why Knights coach Adam O'Brien has shaken up his spine for tomorrow's clash against Manly at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The main catalyst for change is Tyson Gamble.
After a lethargic performance against the Sharks in Coffs Harbour last weekend, O'Brien left the ground for the four-hour drive home convinced the club's best competitor, Gamble, had to be in the starting side. And at five-eighth.
Like most of us, O'Brien thought Ponga would be named in the Queensland side and wouldn't be available to face the Sea Eagles anyway. But even when he was left out, it had no bearing on Gamble's selection. Miller's poor game against Cronulla made it easy to slot Ponga back into the No.1 jersey.
There are those who would argue Gamble to six and Ponga back to No.1 is not before time. Ironically, the whole premise of moving Ponga to six in pre-season was because of the club's struggle to adequately fill both halves positions with players capable of consistently getting the job done.
When Gamble signed late last season, he was viewed more as a back-up NRL option to Jackson Hastings rather than a main man. So the push to convert Ponga into a six continued and Miller was then signed to fill the fullback void.
But Gamble proved early in the season when he partnered with Hastings in Ponga's absence he was far more than just a fill-in. It was Miller's great early season form that complicated things.
On paper, at least, O'Brien appears to have finally got the balance right. The Manly game should answer some questions in that regard.
Knights halfback Jackson Hastings will take over the goal-kicking duties against Manly tomorrow with regular kicker Lachie Miller out of the starting side.
Hastings hasn't kicked for goal since surrendering the job to Miller to protect his troublesome ankle during the side's round five clash against the Sea Eagles in Mudgee on April 1.
We're told he's spent about two hours this week honing his skills with the club's part-time specialist kicking coach Berrick Barnes.
Ironically Miller, who missed three of his four shots at goal in the side's agonising golden-point loss to Penrith in round seven, finally found some consistency with the boot in recent weeks despite his loss of form. He's landed eight of his past 10 attempts, with one miss hitting the upright.
With so much to concentrate on due to their inconsistencies, sometimes the Knights' attention to detail appears to get overlooked. For instance, simple things like the depth of kick-offs and how much ground is gained from kicks for touch after penalties.
With field position such a crucial component, being able to at least land the ball on the opposition try-line from a kick-off should be a given unless a team is kicking short to try to regain the footy. But how often have we seen the Knights fall well short and end up having to defend an attacking kick from the opposition at the end of the set rather than fielding a clearing kick?
Same goes with penalty kicks for touch. Anything appears good enough, as long as it goes out. We wonder how much time, if any, is spent at training getting these fundamentals right.
Daniel and Jacob Saifiti will no doubt be looking on with a touch of envy when the Blues meet the Maroons on Wednesday night, wondering what might have been.
Both have been outstanding in the past at Origin level but there is no question their form this season has not warranted selection. Knights fans will be hoping their omission will be the catalyst for them to fire up and really rip into the Manly pack tomorrow. As an added incentive, Daniel will celebrate his 150th NRL game.
It would be the fairytale return every Knights fan would love to see happen. But is the club in a position to even entertain the possibility of bringing former captain Sione Mata'utia back from England next season for a swansong season like Danny Buderus and Clint Newton?
An emotional Mata'utia, who has won two premierships with St Helens in the English Super League since leaving the Knights at the end of the 2020 season, this week told the Toohey's News podcast he still idolises the club and would love to wear the red and blue again. He even revealed he's still a Knights member.
The big mover after the Knights' lacklustre 26-6 loss to the Sharks was winger Greg Marzhew, who continued his eye-catching form to earn maximum points in Baz's Best player of the year competition.
He jumps to eight points but trails leader Tyson Frizell by four points after the recalled Blues back-rower polled a point in the heavy defeat.
Rd 12 - Knights v Sharks
3 Greg Marzhew 2 Bradman Best 1 Tyson Frizell
Standings: 12 Tyson Frizell 10 Lachie Miller 9 Dane Gagai 8 Greg Marzhew 5 Kalyn Ponga 4 Phoenix Crossland 3 Jackson Hastings, Leo Thompson, Kurt Mann 2 Tyson Gamble, Bradman Best 1 Daniel Saifiti, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Dom Young, Jacob Saifiti.
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